Vivian Sessoms


(Baby Buddha)


She’s spent her career enhancing the music of Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, Stevie Wonder, Cher, Chaka Khan, Pink and others. But, as with Lisa Fischer, when Vivian Sessoms leads her own project, her towering voice and sensitive musicality shunts many bigger names into the shade.

Nor is she over-eager to reveal her wears. The opening track is essentially an instrumental merely flecked with the colour of a wordless vocal towards the end, and we are into the fourth song, I Can’t Breathe, before she fully unzips a voice of such staggering power that you fear for the health of the air particles between the speakers and your ears. It’s a 12/8 slow-burner, with a tasty Mark Whitfield guitar solo that wisely avoids trying to upstage Sessoms, while the great Billy Kilson imbues the laid-back drumming with his unique vibrancy. She can steam into funk (One Thing Leads to Another), soothe with ballads (joined by Gregoire Maret’s peerless harmonica on They Only Knew) and intrigue with genre-crossing atmospherics (As). The sheer scope of what Sessoms attempts conspires to produce some inconsistency, but her best work lies near the pinnacle of the R&B/jazz nexus.