Jazz vocalist and songwriter Sheryl B Marymount has released her much-anticipated debut album “Complicated Needs”, recorded at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA with her band of fine musicians, “The Stellar Six”. The San Francisco Bay area musician is a well-known singer within the local community and music venues.
Sheryl B is an amazing artist; her voice is pure and filled with emotions, while the selection of songs reminds me of listening to great live music in a New Orleans jazz club, where the room is cool, dark and seductive. “Complicated Needs” is a magnificent change from overproduced vanilla pop. The songs have a sophisticated but earthy feel that won’t alienate the listener, like jazz sometimes has a tendency to do with the untrained ear.
It all sounds so soulful and sincere. Nowadays, there is a real trend to try to be retro and recreate classic styles of music, it would be easy to dismiss Sheryl B as just another bandwagon-hopper trying to sound like an old style jazz singer but she is so convincing and perfect to listen to, you can’t help thinking that she is simply a natural. Her music is never overly complex or too showy. It’s her voice and her thoughtful lyrics that carry her work together with the sultry ‘big-band’ arrangements. There is something understated yet beautiful about Sheryl B’s work on her debut.
Sheryl B’s ability to make you a part of her moment and feel the emotion of the music comes off without a hitch. Her voice, the musical accompaniment, the pace and overall sound quality are excellent on each and every song. Sheryl B Marymount might be one of the better female jazz/standard singers in many a year. You can hear echoes of Billie Holiday in her arrangements and her superb band backup – made up of Eddie Mendenhall – Keys, Dan Robbins – Bass, Jason Lewis – Drums, Kris Strom – Sax, Jeff Lewis – Trumpet, Dave Gregoric – Trombone and Musical Director – is for the most part reminiscent of classic 60’s recordings, while her ballads are bright and luminous reminding me of some of Stan Getz’s recordings.
If you’re still not convinced of the authenticity of all of this, rest assured, you will be, when the trumpet kicks in on the opening track, “Man For Me”, and Sheryl B rolls out her velvety voice across selected bars. She has such great musical feel. Her pitch and diction are right on and you can hear every word of the lyric. She sings “Lover” in a relaxed and swinging fashion, with the same cool ease Nat Cole sang “Route 66”.
I particularly like the title track “Complicated Needs” especially where the melody goes down to the bottom of her range. She nails it right down and that fluttery voice suddenly blooms out like a singer who has done all of her breathing exercises. Recent years have produced a bevy of young women bringing strong credentials to the formidable tradition of female lead vocalist in jazz combos, heirs apparent to the mantles of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn. The good news is that several of them are very good. The truly exciting news is that Sheryl B can comfortably sit in this class. Listen to “Junkie”, “Watch Over Me” and “You’d Be So Nice” where her distinctive voice is supple and versatile, fresh and strong.
I personally think the unique quality of her voice is the chief asset in her musical interpretation, as opposed to, say, her phrasing, which is just as good mind you. Sheryl B manages to be unabashedly romantic without being cloying, adventurous without being presumptuous, and firmly rooted in a tradition while taking it forward. And that is no mean feat for someone on their debut!