With her first two critically acclaimed albums, jazz vocalist Sylvia Brooks introduced a sensuous jazz-noir sound redolent of femme fatales and tough guys, crooked deals and deep-shadowed urban nightscapes. But no great artist wants to be typecast, and with her third album, The Arrangement, she steps out of the mist and fog into the sunlight, where she reveals herself as a singer at home in just about any narrative. An intimate collaboration with an array of brilliant Los Angeles arrangers, The Arrangement was released on May 19, 2017, and is a current Grammy contender.
When an artist succeeds in a particular niche she always faces pressure to repeat the performance, but Brooks had no intention of limiting herself. “I wanted to explore different musical styles,” she says. “I love Latin influenced music, big band swing, and rich ballads. I want to explore the whole spectrum musically.”
With a sumptuous velvet-rich voice and emotionally incisive phrasing, Brooks is far too protean a talent to be confined to any particular plotline. In creating The Arrangement, she didn’t just set out to investigate different moods and rhythms. She invited a dazzling cast of writers to craft bespoke charts tailored stylishly for her voice, while giving them casting carte blanche, an act of trust that led to a project marked by a glorious diversity of settings.
Starting with Kim Richmond, who collaborated on her first two albums, she connected with a superlative collection of accompanist/arrangers, including Venezuelan-born pianist Otmaro Ruiz (Dianne Reeves), pianist Jeff Colella (Lou Rawls), French-born pianist Christian Jacob (Tierney Sutton, Betty Buckley), and pianist Quinn Johnson (Steve Tyrell, Diana Ross) “who all have very different styles,” Brooks says. “Quinn is very different from Otmaro, who’s got an entirely different sensibility from Christian.”