Dr. Cynthia Felton is the founder and artistic director of the Ethnomusicology Library of American Heritage, an educator, a producer and an arranger—and to complete the package, this is one lady who can sing. Check out her website and listen to what she does with just a sample of “Time Out,” or better still listen to her latest album Save Your Love For Me: Cynthia Felton Sings the Nancy Wilson Classics. Following up on previous tribute albums to Oscar Brown, Jr. and Duke Ellington, she has gathered a dynamite list of musical talent to work with her on ten of her favorite songs culled from five Wilson albums recorded in the sixties, and she does the singer proud.
She opens the album with a short, evanescent a cappella version of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” serving as an invocation, before getting down to the business at hand. “The Old Country” begins with a piano intro from Donald Brown, and although a Nat Adderley, Curtis Lewis composition, in her arrangement there is no saxophone. There’s some sweet trumpet work from Wallace Roney, but no saxophone. She includes four more from Wilson’s album collaboration with Cannonball: “Save Your Love For Me,” “A Sleepin’ Bee,” “Never Will I Marry,” and “The Masquerade is Over.” Clearly, like the artist she is, her versions are not imitations—she honors Wilson by building on what she has done. Compare her version of the title song with Wilson’s and you can hear the emotional difference, and this time she does have a saxophonist, Jeff Clayton.
“Dearly Beloved,” is an up tempo gambol which features some fine scatting from Felton and has pianist Cyrus Chestnut and bassist Robert Hurst working their magic. Wes Montgomery’s “West Coast Blues,” which follows the ballad “Only the Young,” offers a change of emotional pace, besides a jazz singer absolutely needs to sing the blues. “Guess Who I Saw Today” is a masterful interpretation of the tune’s misdirection. “I Wish You Love” concludes the set on a high note.
A note to Cynthia Felton—Ethnomusicology is certainly important, but keep the albums coming.