Courtney Fortune Speaks Love in Gorgeous Tones
There are so many female pop vocalists steeped on "American Idol" histrionics who want to out Mariah Mariah these days and jazz singers who don't have the word nuance in their dictionaries or think they have to imitate the husky tones of Cassandra Wilson or chilly remove of Diana Krall. So, few fresh voices are emerging in either genre.
It's nice to come across a talent like Courtney Fortune these days. Fortune seems to be interested in crossing genres and bringing both torch and playfulness to her music on "Speak Love" (Origin). It's a beautifully modulated disc featuring Fortune's pure, lovely voice and subtle, clean phrasing and a batch of smart tunes?a number of which she wrote or co-wrote. With a crisp, efficient ensemble backing her up, Fortune moves nimbly from shuffling pop ("Close the Door") to reflective balladry ("You're Starting to Feel Like Home") to delicious late night jazzy glide ("I Love the Way You're Breaking Heart") where she slyly slurs her syllables (I'd say it's insanely seductive but the alliteration would be a tad too much).
Of course as the disc's title implies, the songs deal with the matters of the heart and the difficulties of relationships in the modern world. And, as with love, Fortune, finds ways to be both comforting and unsettling?there's hope as well as sadness here. Producer and arranger Chris Walden is smart enough to let the clarity of Fortune's voice shine through and she shows the kind of confidence and grace that few artists project on debuts.