Valerie Ghent - Velours (2016)

Valerie Ghent
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Valerie Ghent - Velours

One could call Valerie Ghent a “kick butt” artist and not be referring to the three octave vocal range, songwriting and keyboard playing that she displays throughout, Velours, her latest album. Ghent has studied Chinese martial arts for 21 years and travels there periodically to get more training, including making a trip there this summer.

The 21 years Ghent spent studying martial arts is one aspect of a multi-faceted individual, and her desire to learn and grow is also reflected in her personal and professional biography. As you learn from “New York City Streets,” the third track on Velours and her love letter to her native city, Ghent grew up in SoHo in Greenwich Village where she was raised by two parents who were music professionals and counted saxophonist and free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman as a neighbor.

Valerie Ghent - Velours

One could call Valerie Ghent a “kick butt” artist and not be referring to the three octave vocal range, songwriting and keyboard playing that she displays throughout, Velours, her latest album. Ghent has studied Chinese martial arts for 21 years and travels there periodically to get more training, including making a trip there this summer.

The 21 years Ghent spent studying martial arts is one aspect of a multi-faceted individual, and her desire to learn and grow is also reflected in her personal and professional biography. As you learn from “New York City Streets,” the third track on Velours and her love letter to her native city, Ghent grew up in SoHo in Greenwich Village where she was raised by two parents who were music professionals and counted saxophonist and free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman as a neighbor.

Before becoming a solo artist in her own right, Ghent worked as a keyboardist and recording engineer for Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson for over two decades. Over that time, Ghent recorded the work of Ashford and Simpson, as well as Nina Simone, Cliff Richard, Roberta Flack and Peabo Bryson, just to name a few.

Ghent’s background as a studio musician and studio engineer can be heard with clarity throughout Velours. This is not one of those albums that features auto tune or programmed drums or the lead vocalist singing the backing parts. Nope. The instruments are analog, and if the tracks on Velours weren’t recorded with all of the musicians and backing vocalist crowded into a studio, it sure sounds that way.

Ghent had the sole or a major role in composing or writing the lyrics for each of the 11 tracks on Velours, and that includes the vocal, acoustic guitar, violin and cello number “Linger,” that I swore was a cover of a Great American Songbook standard when I first heard it -- and had a chance to listen to and linger on the lyrics. Those lyrics have that show tune quality that Tin Pan Alley writers gave to musical theater tunes of the first half of the 20th Century. I guess you can do a whole worse than have your lyricism compared to lyricists from that era.

“Linger” is one of several high quality, adult oriented cuts on Velours. The album opens with the mid-tempo smooth funk of “Love Divine,” and only becomes more diverse and wide open from there. “On & On” has that kind of Bay Area slowed down pop fused with jazz and funk, giving it the feel of late 70s Steely Dan before the tempo changes into a rock infused bridge. “Phased” is a reggae torch song infused with Caribbean percussion and Ghent’s bouncy keyboard work, transforming her organ into a percussion instrument, while the title track features a propulsive bass line and tight backing vocals.

The production techniques and artistic values on Velours definitely have a late 1970s/early 80s vibe. Yet the record does not sound dated. Perhaps that could be because Ghent is responding to a long stated and pent up desire for music that sounds organic and truly collaborative. That kind of quality never really goes out of style. Solidly Recommended

By Howard Dukes

 

 
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