The Terence Blanchard protégé releases her Concord debut album on April 5
One mark of a gifted singer is how well he or she can reinterpret a classic composition and make it their own. The classic in this instance is the ‘60s-era song “Just a Little Lovin’ (Early in the Mornin’).” Penned by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, it’s been covered by a slew of stars from Dusty Springfield, Tina Turner and Barbra Streisand to Ray Charles, Carmen McRae and Sarah Vaughan. Now add the name Quiana Lynell to that distinguished list.
Lynell’s arresting vocals—joining forces with a percolating arrangement fusing soul, gospel and jazz—brings a fresh, contemporary spin to Mann and Weil’s perennial gem. And with its premiere, the track serves up another taste—following the March 1 bow of “Move Me No Mountain”— of what’s on tap when Concord Jazz releases the newcomer’s debut album, A Little Love, on April 5.
A fan of influential jazz vocalist McRae’s version of “Lovin’,” Lynell brought the song to her producer Brian Michel Bacchus, who was familiar with Springfield’s cover. “It brings the album together,” says Lynell of including the song on the album. “I have affirmations and goals written all over my bathroom mirror so that every morning I start with a little self-love. The song also has a romantic overtone and I apply both, emotionally, to the interpretation.”
Affirmations, self-talk and positivity in today’s daunting climate stoked the inspiration behind A Little Love. Striking a heady balance of blues, soul, straight-ahead jazz, gospel and classical influences, the 10-track set encompasses a wide swath of songs written by and/or covered by talents such as Donny Hathaway, George and Ira Gershwin, Chaka Khan, Irma Thomas, Duke Ellington and Jerry Ragovoy as well as emerging modern writers Alina Engibaryan and Joshuah Campbell. Lynell is backed by a tight-knit band that includes Cyrus Chestnut (piano), Ed Cherry (guitar), George DeLancey (bass), Monte Croft (vibes) and Jamison Ross (drums). The latter also duets with Lynell on the track “They All Laughed.”
Lynell likens A Little Love to a perfect pot of gumbo. “The musicians and content are the roux,” she explains. “The stylings and song choices are the various meats.”
The Texas-born Lynell first made folks take notice when she and her trio performed at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2017. That in turn led to her singing in Poland alongside a 75-piece orchestra during Grammy-winning trumpeter Terence Blanchard’s tribute to Spike Lee. Moved by her vocal prowess, Blanchard became her mentor. “It’s an unbelievable truth to be able to say I am being mentored by Terence Blanchard,” says Lynell. “He’s the best type of teacher because he leads by example.”
Then in November 2017, Lynell won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition Award and collected her prize: the chance to record an album for Concord. Now the singer is preparing to hit the road with A Little Love for a series of tour dates, including New Orleans’ upcoming JazzFest in April/May and the 2019 Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles in June.
Here’s the complete track listing for A Little Love, now available for pre-order here.
1. We Are 2. Tryin’ Times 3. Move Me No Mountain 4. Come Sunday / I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel to Be Free) 5. They All Laughed featuring Jamison Ross 6. Just a Little Lovin’ (Early in the Mornin’) 7. You Hit the Spot 8. Hip Shakin’ Momma 9. What Is Love? 10. Sing Out, March On