Originality is a key to gaining notice.
Vocalist Maria Neckam attempts that with Deeper, a set of
all-original songs on Sunnyside Records.
Born in Vienna, Austria, Neckam studied at the Manhattan School of Music
and has worked with David Binney, The Mahavinshu Project and others. On
this date, she’s accompanied by pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Thomas
Morgan and drummer Colin Stanahan. Saxophonists Lars Dietrich (alto) and
Samir Zarif (tenor) appear on selected tracks, and vocalist Peter Eldridge
contributes to “I Remember.”
The title song starts the set. It’s a tranquil piece with subtle play on
bass, piano and drums, complementing the alto flute-like vocal. The beauty
comes through during a wordless vocal interlude. Stranahan punctuates key
points during this sequence with rolls on the snare and toms, enhanced by
splash and crash cymbals.
Neckam scats to open the bouncy “Happy Song.” Dietrich delivers a
spirited, expressive solo. Neckam harmonizes with an overdub on the
chorus, making for a charming, overall feeling. The subdued ballad “When
You’re In Love” is placid for the first four minutes. Then, with a roll on
the drums, Neckam lets go of any inhibitions. “All these feelings in your
head and your heart, that you hold onto, you hold onto,” she sings
emphatically while the core trio of sidemen play with more intensity.
Zarif sits in on “Fear,” which at nearly eight minutes is the longest
track on the recording. The melody is dissonant, but the middle break is a
lesson in stretching out. Marked by some crisp rim shots and piano fills,
the tenor solo is a story unto itself. Zarif takes the instruments to
extreme highs and lows, rumbling through some phrases and squealing on
others. Alto and tenor saxes bring things down slowly, setting up a vocal
chant by Neckam. Her voice is a wind instrument, underscored by bass,
piano and drums.
There are times when Neckam’s singing seems far from polished, but that’s
part of her charm. The music of Deeper is happy one moment, worried
the next. Whichever the case, it’s always passionate.