Alisa Ohri - Cuz I Feel (2009)

Alisa Ohri
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I was predisposed to like Cuz I Feel, the latest CD by Alisa Ohri. After all, Cuz I Feel is a disc that sports an ultra sophisticated mesh of jazz and R&B. The musicianship is deftly nuanced. The songs are well crafted lyrically and delivered by a woman who brings sultry vocals and the kind of crisp phrasing and intonation one normally hears in singers who have a lot of jazz  training. Vocalists like Jean Carne, Marlena Shaw made Phyllis Hyman this kind of music in the 1970s, when my musical tastes were being formed.

So the only thing that could stop me from liking Cuz I Feel would be the execution, and it's clear from the first song that Ohri is in her comfort zone when singing in this style.

I was predisposed to like Cuz I Feel, the latest CD by Alisa Ohri. After all, Cuz I Feel is a disc that sports an ultra sophisticated mesh of jazz and R&B. The musicianship is deftly nuanced. The songs are well crafted lyrically and delivered by a woman who brings sultry vocals and the kind of crisp phrasing and intonation one normally hears in singers who have a lot of jazz  training. Vocalists like Jean Carne, Marlena Shaw made Phyllis Hyman this kind of music in the 1970s, when my musical tastes were being formed.

So the only thing that could stop me from liking Cuz I Feel would be the execution, and it's clear from the first song that Ohri is in her comfort zone when singing in this style.

Ohri's mature voice is the star of this show. She is more than up to the challenge of moving from the mid-tempo funk of the title track to the jazzier "We Are Survivin" and "Could It Be." The latter is one of the Cuz I Feel's gems, with the drummer using the brushes to give song a melancholy feel that matches the lyrics. This song swings melodically and Ohri's vocals swing right along with it. The tempo rises and falls, and Ohri is right there using her vocal instrument to convey the song's sadness and sense of longing.

Ohri gets really funky on the bass thumping track "Just Stay," proving that this jazz singer can sing funk as well, and just to show that she can cover all bases, the vocalist shows herself to be a dance hall queen on the up tempo tune "Your Smile." And speaking of smiling, a big one crossed my face after I heard Ohri's treatment of the Miles Davis classic "Blue in Green." Ohri becomes the latest vocalist to add words to one of the tunes from Davis' historic Kind of Blue album, which was released 50 years ago. Ohri's soulful vocal rendition captures the song's pensive spirit. A vocal version of "Blue in Green" that takes the tune into the soul and R&B realm definitely represents how Miles' music was evolving in the years after Bitches Brew.

Cuz I Feel covers a lot of musical ground on a nine song album. Ohri likely had the option of including other tracks on this record. I'm glad she opted to go with nine songs. Cuz I Feel goes by quickly, and listeners will find themselves putting this CD on repeat. Highly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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