CD review brief: Fini Bearman

Step Up
(Feenz Beenz Records)

Bearman composes her own music and writes some of her own lyrics. For this album she has Rick Simpson on piano, Tom Farmer on bass and Josh Morrison on drums.

Her voice is clear and fairly cool, and her style leans more to that straight folk or singer-songwriter articulation, with none of the old jazz ways. I’m sure she has listened to all of them, but you won’t hear any Sarah or Ella in her style. And that’s all good.

The title song is inspired by the late trumpeter Richard Turner, clearly a great influence as a teacher. While the tune moves in a fresh and original way, the words, sincere as they undoubtedly are, might work OK as a speech at a memorial services but they don’t really work that well as song lyrics.

Some of the other lyrics come from the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa (Fumei a Vida), the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (Still) and the Greek poet Sappho (Kyrpis). The Pessoa sounds good, especially as it is in the original Portuguese, and Bearman tackles it lightly and with flair. The Neruda and the Sappho, both in translation, sound, like the title track, rather too wordy, yet there aren’t that many words on the liner booklet page. Maybe it is the way the words are fitted in to the complexities of the melody line – they feel like a contrived fit.

With Ocean Wide, her own words inspired by sculptor Anthony Gormley’s Another Place, the fabulous collection of figures staring out to sea on Crosby Beach, Bearman fares better – the whole thing is a little simpler and more direct. This and Awakening are perhaps the most successful meldings of lyric and melody, and Taking Steps has no words, but a great deal of charm.

The singing and the playing is strong, and clearly Bearman has an original sound and an original approach to song-writing. It just feels like the latter needs a lot more work to achieve a more natural and less forced melodic/lyric fit.

Categories: CD review

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