It’s not difficult to hear a sort of “coming of age” – of Denielle Bassels – in What About Wool Wishbags; a sort of musical equivalent of cinéma vérité in which the shy awkward street waif becomes a global queen of jazz and pop. The word “global” may be construed as being used somewhat loosely used here and includes the use of airwaves and social media as weapons of mass combat for hyper-real world domination. But pause for breath when Miss Bassels does, if only to drink in the almost Dali-esque lyrics of a song gleam as they deliver spontaneous, unaffected joy and you will be sucked right in to the world of Denielle Bassels as it is in the process of being taken right over seemingly before your very eyes.
Hard-core Jazz music fans will surely prefer Miss Bassels’ exuberant side, throwing caution to the wind like the eminent horn players (here) who clearly bow to her as they doff their proverbial hats and regard her as a formidable equal. But just as distinctive as she is with the original canon on this recording, one gets a sense of her absorbing the lessons of artists as far removed as the great Billie Holiday is from Björk and Amy Winehouse, clearly as she (Miss Bassels) seems to devour notes and words – music and lyrics – and indeed life-experiences, like a kind of anthropophage jazz diva. Somehow you also get a sense that with a silken voice employed to glide in and out of both soprano and contralto registers, Denielle Bassels is like a heady brew to be consumed completely. Case in point? “Cool Cool Water”.
The music on What About Wool Wishbags which Miss Bassels has written together with producer and a multi-instrumentalist Mike Mathieson is in a class by itself. The lyrics are literate, witty, acerbic and poignant, and in her inimitable manner Miss Bassels invites us to share her pleasure and admiration at their achievement, showcasing in the moment, her compositional skills. The instant appeal of songs such as “Dreamer” and “Boy Adventure” become captivating sequences of scenes and portraits, brought to life by her honesty, assurance and insight, her consummate phrasing and poise.
Other works, such as “Spiders Kiss” and “Silly Lion” offer sets of pieces inspired by real-world ideas, people and situations but infused with the kind of heady imagination that transforms their resonances into a series of vivacious musical adventures. Here especially Denielle Bassels must surely have her bandmates to thank for this; especially trumpeter Andrew McAnsh, winds and reeds man Jacob Gorzhaltsan, and, especially violinist Aline Homzy, who wails beautiful way through the infectious grooves and many other territories of this music with the ease of a born virtuoso. The recorded sound is expertly shaped around both Denielle Bassels and the group whose ensemble and solo playing dazzle.
Track list: 1: I’ll Go Your Way; 2: Dreamer; 3: What About Wool Wishbags; 4: Cool Cool Water; 5: So Nice To Talk To; 6: Boy Adventure; 7: And Nothing Else; 8: Spiders Kiss; 9: Little Boats; 10: Silly Lion; 11: We Smile.
Personnel: Denielle Bassels: vocals, background vocals, ukulele and percussion; Andy Mac: acoustic guitar; Dave Kirby: electric guitar; Mike Mathieson: ukulele, piano, organetta and percussion; Aline Homzy: violin; Scott Hunter: contrabass & electric bass; Joe Ryan: drums (2, 3, 4); Brendon Mariani: drums and percussion (6, 10); Jacob Gorzhaltsan: clarinet and tenor saxophone; Andrew McAnsh: trumpet; PJ Andersson: trombone Meg Contini and Lydia Persaud: background vocals.