She has been variously described as "this generation's Ella Fitzgerald", "one of the most interesting voices I've heard in a long while" (Chaka Khan), "the greatest musical mind I've ever been around" (Harry Connick, Jr), and quoted as an influence by stars like Beyoncè and Mariah Carey. The truth is that Kim Burrell is a fantastic jazz-based gospel singer, powerful and controlled, and even if I may not like all of her songs, I sure love her vocals. She has a beautiful dark tone and a natural graffiato, reminiscent of Billy Paul and Vermettya Royster (former Clara Ward's side-woman and Sisters Love's leader). She has an instrumental approach to singing, and phrases as if she is playing a saxophone.
Her debut for Shanachie records, this is her fourth album (it has the same title of a Fontella Bass release) and has got some great musical moments. Yes, some of the songs are a little bit over-produced, but Burrell is in full shape and delivers them with conviction and elegance. The highlights are the deep "Yes to your will", a duet with her sis Kathy Burrell, the jazzy, scat-only "Prelude" (based on Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke"), and the reprise of her own composition "Jesus", which has a more traditional southern sound that perfectly fits her warm voice (this is my fave track from the album, because she sings so softly, in an almost shy way, reaching the highest emotional peaks). Her gospelized version of Gershwin's "Someone to watch over me" is also interesting, with its afterhour, Sarah Vaughan-like feel and pathos.
When the music industry will decide to give more room to this lady, and to invest more money on her, we will see her making musical miracles: I'm sure that her best is yet to come, and I'm faithfully, patiently waiting. Pierluigi Avorio.