Who is that searing voice in the Swiss Youth Jazz Orchestra’s latest live album, Heaven Help Us All (Shanti Records)? She’s bassist Sharon Renold, 18, the surprising soul injection in an exemplary and tight jazz orchestral setting live at the April 16, 2016 Jazzaar Festival in Kultur and Kongresshaus, Aarau, Switzerland.
She’s also the daughter of the Swiss Youth Jazz Orchestra director, Fritz K. Renold, who composed two of the 13 compositions for this occasion and helped arranged the rest of the tracks, along with a host of respected musicians in front of and behind the scenes.
Heaven Help Us All blossomed from a global cooperative led by Renold, along with Florian Ross, Robert Glasper, Adi Yeshaya, Tim Akers, Jamshied Sharifi, Bob Freedman, and Gil Goldstein on arrangements.
Everyone contributed to the music, which took on a life of its own, soaking up the high energy of the youthful jazz orchestra, the guest stars, and the lively audience, which the listener can clearly pick up.
The voice tying this orchestra together through the weaving of a myriad of soul and jazz influences is the young, gifted bassist. She kills it in “Street Life,” “Afro Blue,” and “Mercy Mercy Mercy,” vibing with the material and holding her own amongst some tremendous instrumental solos — that drummer, though!
The way the orchestra handled “Mercy Mercy Mercy” reflects ease in the jazz-soul vernacular, as Renold’s arrangement cross-crosses Cannonball Adderley’s 1966 jazz-blues mainstay by Joe Zawinul with Stevie Wonder’s 1973 anti-racism, soul-pop hit, “Living For The City.”
Renold arranged the meaty, pseudo-medley mix, transcribed from Queen Latifah’s version by Ned Wilkinson. He expertly melded the then and the now with a modern polish and the silken strains of his daughter’s vocals, banked off the similarity in that climbing higher ground tempo. She captured the essence of the gospel yearning and heartbreak in both tunes.
Fritz K. Renold wrote the music and Ned Wilkinson the lyrics to the Gil Goldstein arranged, “No Way Boss,” which features a killer drum solo 3/4ths of the way in.
George Duke’s “Overture,” orchestrated by Renold, features the orchestra slaying in funky time.
The list of creative choices goes on and on in this wonderfully reimagined jazz-orchestral journey through some familiar and original pieces for voice and instrument.
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