Darden Purcell's album Love's Got Me In A Lazy Mood (OA2 Records, 2023) shows her keen ear for the subtleties and nuances which define the West Coast cool jazz vocal sound. Purcell's album comprises eleven tracks which blend the laid-back, sophisticated rhythms and melodic inventiveness that characterize the style with beautiful singing and nimble playing.
Purcell is joined by an ensemble of musicians whose contributions are pivotal to the album's charm and success. On six tracks the ensemble features Joe Locke on vibraphone, whose nuanced textures and rhythmic sophistication add depth to each track. Shawn Purcell, who arranged all the songs, weaves intricate harmonies and melodies which complement and converse with Darden Purcell's vocals. Todd Simon's piano provides a supportive undercurrent, binding the ensemble's sound. The rhythmic foundation laid down by Jeff Reed on acoustic bass and Todd Harrison on drums is compelling, creating a rhythmic flow which allows each musician to flourish in the various feels and styles. The ensemble creates a cohesive, explorative, and resonant sound with an overall essence of West Coast cool jazz.
Purcell's vocal delivery is a journey through the emotional landscapes of each track. Her rendition of "A Cottage for Sale" is a highlight as she confidently conveys the song in a heartfelt narrative. "You've Changed" is another song in which she displays those qualities, matching the lyrics with the coloring of her tone and inflections. In the title track, "Love's Got Me in a Lazy Mood," Purcell uses the lyrics to explore love's complex, layered emotions through her vocal inflections. Her vocal delicacies hint at an undercurrent of both contentment and longing, a duality often explored in the introspective nature of West Coast cool jazz, where the focus is often on expression and mood.
In "Estrada Branca (This Happy Madness)," Purcell's switch between Portuguese and English adds a unique storytelling dimension. Her nuanced and deliberate phrasing engages in both linguistic settings, creating a creative and universal performance. "Estate" has a moody and dark arrangement. The laid-back phrasing of Purcell's vocals makes the song's story come alive. This ability to tell a story through subtle vocal inflections is reminiscent of the West Coast jazz ethos, where less is often more.
Shawn Purcell's original, "Chatterbox," is one of the album's many highlights. The song has an exciting approach to the vocal, guitar, piano, and vibes possibilities to create varying orchestrative dialogues. Purcell's voice engages with the ensemble as an instrument which happens to be singing lyrics. This interplay is done with a command of jazz rhythms and articulations. Purcell's personal touch comes through in her lyric choices and vocal expression. By choosing both aspects, Purcell can give a performance that distinctly displays her jazz articulation and rhythm with excellent lyric writing.
Throughout Love's Got Me In A Lazy Mood, Purcell comprehends jazz's expressive potential. Her vocal delivery is built upon solid technical skills, but her artistry is about weaving a melody with stories and emotions.