Allison Adams Tucker sounds lustrous in any language. The California jazz vocalist can sing jazz in six different languages. On her new album, April In Paris, she does lyrical justice to her native English, Italian, French, and Portuguese. Released on June 3, April In Paris carries Tucker — and any listeners caught in her spell — away to far-off lands, exotic locales, and new beginnings in the fresh bloom of spring.
Tucker recorded her second album in Paris on UNESCO’s first International Jazz Day, with an international cast of session players and arrangers, including Jovino Santos Neto, Danny Green, and Kamau Kenyatta, who first appeared on her hit 2008 debut, Come With Me. It was the last leg of her mini-European tour, and she’d finally recovered well enough from the flu.
Surrounded by a wealth of international musicianship — Evona Wascinski (contrabass), Louise-Emmanuelle Dorche (violin), Mirko Guerrini (saxophones/Peruvian flute), and Lou Fanucchi (accordion) — Tucker rose to the occasion. Her affinity for languages and ease within the call-and-response of jazz rested easily amidst the exotic trips evoked in the non-traditional instrumentation. It all lent an even more surreal, dreamy effect, as if Tucker took the listener along on her travels, the busy streets of a sophisticated Parisian café, the lazy sway of palm trees by a Brazilian coast, under a Roman moon.
Most of April In Paris matches Tucker’s natural effervescence, like popping open a bottle of champagne and watching the bubbles spark and float away. Of the nine tracks — mostly covers, one priceless heirloom from Tucker herself — only a handful fall pensive. Even then, Michel Legrand’s “You Must Believe In Spring” holds for Tucker (seamless from English to French and back again) many opportunities to turn every phrase upward towards the light.
Perhaps it’s Tucker’s linguistic repartee, but this is a vocalist who clarifies every note within a hair’s breath, as if swallowed whole in a feast for the senses. Every word is clearly enunciated, mulled over, and responded to in full. George Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun,” is alright in her tender, loving care as she slightly shifts the tempo to feature her theatrical movements, reverberated in the shadowed angelic chorus.
When Tucker visits “April In Paris,” her voice really takes flight. The mixture of Mirko Guerrini’s enraptured tone-on-tone, Lou Fanucchi’s accordion fancy, bringing the decidedly French, and pianist Emmanuel Massarotti shaking the literary vocals to life. Even if listeners never get to visit, they’ll get a real feel for lighting upon the fashionable streets and the city’s “warm embrace,” as Tucker sings her heart.
“La Canzone Dei Vecchi Amanti” by Jacques Brel is sheer romance. Tucker chose this one wisely, as it favors her vocal sway. One imagines her singing this as she sashays from the pasta bubbling on the stove to the garlic and the basil she’s chopping, kitchen windows open into the night. Wherever the lyrical passes come, she’s fully embracing them, turning this way and that, up for the dramatic heights and then the withering surrender. Tucker and pianist Massarotti tether the surge of reckless flights just short of opera-jazz, clinging ever-so-tightly to the melodic underpinnings, ever-molting. It’s almost hard to believe this is an American singing in Italian. She infuses believability in any language.
Tucker’s one true contribution to the album, “Seasons Of Song,” offers a bit of narrative in an earnest voice fond of faraway repasts (the violin traveling over the melodic soul). “From the sounds of my childhood, to the melodies of twilight… From L.A. to Paris, from Rio to Rome, as long as you’re there, I’m always at home.” What a fitting tribute to the romance and the discoveries of travel, and the perfect vehicle for this open-ended vocalist.