Kandace Springs - Soul Eyes (2016)

Kandace Springs
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In 2014, singer, songwriter and pianist Kandace Springs released her eponymous EP to considerable critical acclaim that landed her coveted appearances on the David Letterman Show, Live at Daryl’s House, and other programs where she thrilled audiences with her talents. We at SoulTracks also raved about Springs and characterized her Letterman debut as perhaps the best R&B television performance of the year.  At that time, Springs’ music and her presentation, visually, was that of  a confident and comfortable “funky soulstress” who blended seamlessly her hip hop and R&B influences to make music uniquely her own. But appearances, we have since learned, can be deceiving. 

In 2014, singer, songwriter and pianist Kandace Springs released her eponymous EP to considerable critical acclaim that landed her coveted appearances on the David Letterman Show, Live at Daryl’s House, and other programs where she thrilled audiences with her talents. We at SoulTracks also raved about Springs and characterized her Letterman debut as perhaps the best R&B television performance of the year.  At that time, Springs’ music and her presentation, visually, was that of  a confident and comfortable “funky soulstress” who blended seamlessly her hip hop and R&B influences to make music uniquely her own. But appearances, we have since learned, can be deceiving. 

In the lead up to her debut full-length album, Soul Eyes, Springs expressed that she had not been “singing her true self” and wanted to return to the “more spacious, organic sound” of her earlier jazz influences, like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. To aid with this transformation, Springs not surprisingly recruited producer Larry Klein, whose name SoulTrackers may recognize from his recent work with, among others, Lizz Wright and Indra Rios Moore, both of whose albums were highly recommended by this website last year. Klein and Springs thereafter assembled a who’s who of supporting musicians, including most notably the trumpeter Terence Blanchard, guitarist Dean Parks, and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, whose virtuosity is critical to the feel of the record.  

Soul Eyes makes abundantly clear that Springs’ attempted transformation has succeeded on all levels: It’s most decidedly a jazz singer’s album, a collection of largely mid-tempo ballads beautifully rendered over spare, piano-anchored and extremely tasteful arrangements. The supporting musicians all color within the lines and keep the focus on Springs, whose expressive, smoky alto is something quite special. It’s an album best appreciated over a dram or two of Scotch, one that requires the patience of repeated listenings to appreciate fully the beauty of its simplicity.

The highlights of the album are several, but the most memorable are the two tracks featuring Blanchard, “Soul Eyes” and “Too Good To Last,” which to my ear is the album’s centerpiece.  The blending of Springs’ voice and the warmth of Blanchard’s tone is just exquisite on the former, and on the latter, Blanchard’s soaring solo is the “breakout” musical moment of the record, one that I wish would have lasted a few more bars, it was so in the pocket.  Close behind those tracks are the beautiful “Place to Hide,” a love song that ever so slightly swings, and “Novocaine Heart,” which is a bit more uptempo and has a lively melody.

In sum, Soul Eyes is an accomplished, alluring and adult record by an artist who has fully harnessed her Muse and her talents. Fans of Lizz Wright, Nancy Wilson and other contemporary jazz vocalists will all find something to like here, and, in Springs, will find an exciting new artist to watch.   Highly Recommended. 

By Robb Patryk

 
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