By Donnell Hilton
The song is the thing, at least for me. I seek them out, they are treasure. Not all of them, of course, but there are indeed enough to last a lifetime. I’ve always looked to music to bring color to the world when it didn’t seem to have much and also to accompany its brightest moments, hopefully making them that much more luminous. The search for these Bright Moments (thank you Rahsaan Roland Kirk) continues to be a most worthwhile endeavor. Just recently, whilst listening to an album I love -- Duke Ellington’s Black, Brown and Beige (Columbia/Legacy), I found myself drawn to the fifth song on the album and not the fourth. The fourth is one of Ellington’s seminal compositions, “Come Sunday” sung by legendary gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. The fifth song is the same composition with a shorter arrangement and instead of vocals it features one of best Jazz violinists of the ‘40s, Ray Nance. The performance is subtle, beautiful, and yearning…yet another reminder that multiple plays of an album can reveal more over time.
Some songs and albums are so good that they need sharing, especially if I know of someone who would enjoy it as much as I. Recently while trolling the internets for music, I stumbled across Benjamin Clementine, a British-born singer, songwriter, poet, and pianist whose voice drew me in immediately. His album At Least for Now (Capitol Records) is all that I hoped it would be and more. After hearing the first single, “Condolence,” I hoped it would be as good and it is. Clementine’s piano playing and vocals, peppered with some strings and percussion, make for a remarkable first outing. The album is populated with line upon line of a poetic sensibility that is passionate, urgent, and revealing, such as “London” with the lyric, “Though my preferred ways are not happening, I won’t under estimate who I am capable of becoming." There are so many good songs: “Adios,” “Nemesis,” “Cornerstone,” “Quiver a Little.” The follow up can’t come soon enough. I’d love to hear him do a rendition of Weill’s “Pirate Jenny.”