Spanning Randy Newman to Nina Simone, the US singer’s medley of favourite tunes showcases her powerhouse vocals, which outshine her backing band
Since relocating to London, Virginia-born Judi Jackson has established herself as a compelling live performer and burgeoning songwriter, blessed with a powerful, pitch-perfect voice – confirmed by her headline performance at the Southbank Centre tomorrow (Sunday) as part of the London jazz festival. Her desire to stand in the line of great divas stretches back to her teenage years, which explains why this second album, after 2021’s all-original Grace, draws principally on the great American songbook, a personal selection of tracks that have inspired and shaped her.
It isn’t all-American, opening with a snappy take on George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun before moving on to well-worn standards such as Stormy Weather and Willow Weep for Me. It’s an entertaining collection that shows Jackson’s versatility, though at times it’s underpowered by a six-piece backing that, for example, struggles to conjure the forlorn drama of Randy Newman’s Baltimore. Singer and group (well led by pianist Jamie Safir) shine brighter on straight ahead jazz such as the sassy Peel Me a Grape and a sultry Come Rain or Come Shine. As ever, Nina Simone (a particular hero) proves a hard act to follow on Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood and My Baby Just Cares for Me. A brave expedition, nonetheless.
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