Many artists claim to have a special relationship with their fans, but few do it as “hands on” effectively as sultry voiced, blues-inflected veteran jazz singer-songwriter and interpreter extraordinaire Jacqui Naylor. Continuing a tradition she started several albums ago, Naylor fills her latest eclectic pop-soul-jazz-blues energized collection The Long Game with originals and re-imaginings chosen by fan balloting at her performances.
This is a brilliant interactive concept that keeps loyal fans happy and engaged and allows the singer to rise to the challenge of creating yet another brilliantly cohesive and eclectic (not to mention, generous at 14 tracks!) collection. Though Naylor is on the marquee, so to speak, in all the ways that matter, this is an alternately crackling/electric and subtly nuanced collaboration between the singer and her crafty storytelling and phrasing and life partner Art Khu, whose deft organ and guitar work and vibrant extended piano solos take these arrangements (by Khu, bassist Jon Evans and drummer Josh Jones) to a transcendent level.
For all the grandeur of her fresh interpretations of classics by Peter Gabriel (the timely and spacious “Don’t Give Up”), David Bowie (a trippy soul spin through “Major Tom”) and Coldplay (a gently reflective “Fix You”), two originals by Naylor and Khu form the heart and soul of this masterful work. The title track, an atmospheric, sparsely arranged expression of one of the singer’s key life philosophies, features Khu’s brilliant organ harmonies and accents, followed by a percolating rock-tinged jazz guitar solo that becomes wilder by the second. “Love Look What You’ve Done” is very different, a gentle and folksy ballad about the wonder of discovering love after a long wait – and features the Khu’s sweet intertwining acoustic guitar and piano.
Now well into her third decade of recording, Jacqui Naylor is in it for The Long Game and, thanks to her fans, keeps taking her artistry higher with each successive recording.