Verena McBee U-PHORIA Review
Verena McBee U-PHORIA Review
Jazz vocalist Verena McBee was born and raised in Northern Germany. She has a learnid background in the arts. Her journey began at age 7 with piano lessons at the Conservatory of Osnabrueck, adding flute to her arsenal at the age of 14. Her interest in theater was a foot, so she joined a local theater group. McBee’s pursuit of formal music studies continued in 1993 to 1997 at the University Osnabrueck, where she studied classical music for teaching (piano & flute) and the German language. In 2004, the then Verena Gemsa met her husband Cecil McBee and moved to NYC in 2007. Her formal training has included studying with premier jazz vocalists Brianna Thomas and Roberta Gambarini.
About the Album
U-PHORIA is McBee’s second album and the follow up to her first album, Can’t help it! released in 2013. McBee accomplishes the monumental task of putting brilliant lyrics to Cecil McBee’s (her husband) original compositions. U-PHORIA is filled with complex melodies and modern harmonies, but McBee’s vocal style allows the music to shine and she conveys the melodic core of each track. The ensemble is Gabriel Dowdy-Terracciano on violin, Christian Contreras on soprano and tenor saxophone, Billy Test on piano, Zwelkahe-Duma Bell LePere on bass and Jon DiFiore on drums. The sonic qualities and agility of Dowdy-Terracciano’s violin pairs beautifully with McBee vocal color and range. This is a magical date of music that might be a little challenging melodically to some, but well worth the listen.
Our Favorite Track
Our favorite track is “U-Phoria.” McBee effortlessly sings the wide spanning range and intervals of the melody with ease and vocal power. McBee’s understanding of the jazz heritage is obvious in the phrasing and rhythmic delivery. Also, McBee’s lyrics are deep and fit the modern colorful style of the music. Most vocalists would struggle to give this melody justice with just singing syllables, as in a vocalese, but McBee delivers the words and conjures a hornlike line with passion and clarity. Dowdy-Terracciano’s violin is lively and matches McBee’s melody presentation. It also nice to hear the violin in a jazz setting. LePere’s bass solo is melodic and full of rich tones, as is DiFiore’s answering statement. McBee scatting solo shows her authority in improvising. The sonic blend between McBee and the saxophone and violin are of note. The three voices blend with each other in a joyous musical celebration. The soprano and violin writing are excellent. This is very creative music performed by a cast of outstanding musicians.
McBee is not an a-typical vocalist, her sense of phrasing, timing and ability to navigate her husband McBee’s melodies is a task most vocalists would struggle to endure. Her modern to avant-garde leanings are in line with her husband’s melodies. Her ability to tackle and ever moving harmonic landscape further exemplifies her command vocally. U-PHORIA is an album that is about depth of listening, each time through the storyline of each tune is uncoiled and the respect of what both McBees’s have created is unified into and aural journey of modern creativity.
Lemac Music, Lady Bee Music
November 18, 2018