Michelle Nicolle Quartet album




flower resTop sports people, from racing drivers to tennis players, appear to slow down time, so there’s more of it in which to act and react. For improvising musicians this ability is a must. As a result the best ones make the process sound relaxed. Unflustered. Easy. Michelle Nicolle’s singing has it. For beauty of both tone and melodic invention she is peerless in this country, but it is this impression of never straining to achieve the improbable that also makes her singing so beguiling.

Here she and her long-time quartet of guitarist Geoff Hughes, bassist Tom Lee and drummer Ronny Ferella concentrate on Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn songs, and the implicit elegance of so much of that material emphasises this feeling of effortlessness; of thrilling arcs up to stratospheric notes that float languorously rather than being laboured. While Nicolle is seldom one to impale you emotional spikes, nor does this sense of ease ever equate to detachment. The band, meanwhile, folds around her like a cushion of air, notably on the title track.