Of the surprising number of jazz albums released every month, many of them are from female vocalists. Among these, Nashville native Kandace Springs’ The Women Who Raised Me stands out. Her third album is a set of covers that pays tribute to the singers who have “raised” Springs artistically and have been influential to the 31-year-old’s career. Part of Springs’ appeal is her uncanny ability to meld classic jazz singing with more modern soul and R&B stylings. It’s not surprising to hear Springs cover signature tunes of Billie Holiday (“Solitude”), Nina Simone (“I Put a Spell On You”), Roberta Flack (“Killing Me Softly With His Song”) and even Bonnie Raitt (“I Can’t Make You Love Me”). Springs gives this familiar material a unique stamp. Astrud Gilberto sang “Gentle Rain” as a lilting samba, but Springs imbues a subtle blues feeling, adding gospel chords on piano. She closes the album with a minimalist “Strange Fruit,” just her on electric piano for an ethereal take of Holiday’s far bleaker original. Better still is “Angel Eyes,” maybe the most recorded of any song here. Joining her for this soulful duet is Norah Jones, who also provides her delicate, understated piano accompaniment. Springs, however, works the eighty-eight keys on the rest of the album, joined by top-shelf players including guitarist Steve Cardenas, bassist Scott Coley, and drummer Clarence Penn. All told, this is an album certain to raise your spirits.
Review by Jay Trachtenberg