Birmingham’s Jaki Graham’s been conspicuous by her absence of late. Indeed her last full UK album release was way back in 1989 when she was riding high on the back of 20 plus chart singles. She’s never stopped working though and now she feels that the time’s right to re-launch her recording career with a new album that goes in a markedly different direction to the pop/soul/dance confections with which she’s usually associated.
This new collection, ‘For Sentimental Reasons’ sees Jaki offers her readings of 12 classic jazz standards. Songs like ‘Good Morning Heartache’, ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ and the LP’s title cut were the kind of songs young Jaki heard while growing up in Birmingham and wisely Ms G doesn’t try to be too different or eccentric with the very familiar material. Equally she doesn’t try to outdo the legends who’ve turned the songs into standards. Rather, she puts the material into a jazz-lite setting – making it perfect for late night radio or the intimacy of the small cabaret lounge. On some cuts – notably ‘Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be)’ and ‘How Long Has This been Going On’ – she brings a soulful urgency that really does refresh friendly old chestnuts. The biggest surprise, though, is the almost Caribbean twist given to the closer ‘What A Little Moonlight Can Do’ … there’s almost a whiff of Amy Winehouse about the arrangement.
Throughout the set the musicianship is keen and sympathetic. Wayne Pollock’s piano is outstanding and the three piece horn section (Rob Mitchell, Simon Nixon and Kev Holborough) add a genuine vibrancy. Little wonder, then that leading radio stations Jazz FM and Smooth Radio have added the album to their playlists. They know that the easy on the ear sound, the familiar songs and the artist “name” will satisfy the majority of their listeners. Ultimately it’s undemanding but for a sizable section of the audience that’s just what they require.