Singer Quiana Lynell’s major label debut album, “A Little Love,” features much for a jazz fan to embrace.
Set-opener “We Are” comes packaged with Stevie Wonder “Innervisions”-era vibes. Her take on Donny Hathaway’s “Tryin’ Times” is a gospel-blues groove. She pairs Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday” with Nina Simone’s “I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free),” to stirring effect. Lush ballads “You Hit The Spot” and “What Is Love” balance things out. Her interpretation of Irma Thomas favorite “Hip Shakin’ Mama” is a lusty blues romp. “Sing Out, March On” again draws on gospel-soul sounds to deliver a righteous protest lyric.
All of it comes courtesy of Lynell’s deeply expressive voice and rich tone.
She and her backing trio — pianist Hope Udobi, bassist Romeir Mendez and drummer Quincy Phillips — bring it live to Jefferson Center on Saturday, at the venue’s Fostek Hall.
The native Texan grew up singing in church, then studied voice at Louisiana State University and later, she moved to New Orleans to teach at Loyola University, according to her online bio. A New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival gig with her trio in 2017 led to a performance in Poland with renowned trumpeter Terence Blanchard, for a Spike Lee tribute. Blanchard, a six-time Grammy Award winner and frequent film score writer for Lee’s movies, has been a champion for Lynell’s career. The same year, she won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition Award. She capped off this early phase of her career, signing with Concord Jazz and releasing “A Little Love,” which has received critical love.
“Lynell often insinuates herself into songs, faking listeners into thinking her performance will be one-dimensional,” reviewer Carlo Wolff wrote in a three-and-a-half star review for Downbeat. “Lynell is too savvy and too ambitious for that, however; she knows how to strike when the iron is hot.”