Having passed away in 2016, legendary jazz and bluesman Mose Allison didn’t live to experience the pandemic, but the sad, resigned, delightfully quirky and ultimately hopeful lyrics he penned back in 1987 presciently capture our collective moment thanks to a splendid, deeply soulful twist given to “Ever Since the World Ended” by two of L.A.’s most compelling and adventurous jazz singers, Lauren White and Dolores Scozzesi.
The edgy, percussively struttin’ and incisively impactful title track to White’s fifth album – an eclectic masterwork of mood swinging thanks to the adventurous arrangements of her longtime friend, pianist and producer Quinn Johnson – lent itself beautifully to a colorful must-see video of photos celebrating diverse cultures and our common humanity and resilience. Yet if hearing that bluesy gem makes you think White’s nine-track COVID-era collection is going to be a full-on portrait of sorrow and despair, open your mind and let the singer take you on a multi-faceted journey covers all the emotional spectrum. Delightfully, there’s no straight-line narrative arc from sorrow to joy.
Much like the daily jumble of highs and lows we all felt this past year, she’s soaring and swinging with Johnson, bassist Trey Henry and drummer Ray Brinker one minute, then reflecting on the hardship of keeping social distance. The happy moments find her enjoying a snappy swirl through “If You Never Fall in Love With Me” (a vocal version of Cannonball Adderley’s “Del Sasser”) and a sparkle filled romp through Ellington’s “Take Love Easy,” while reflective takes on Jimmy Webb’s wistful “Shattered” and the classic ode to loneliness “Alone Together” (a song popularized long ago by Chet Baker) touch on these strange, difficult times. Both tunes offer a line of two of hope – just enough to get by.
While her winsome, sweetly sultry take on “Just the Two of Us” is an elegant, easy flowing gem, the true emotional arc of Ever Since the World Ended comes on the back to back gems offering spot on metaphors for the moment – a lush, Brazlian flavored stroll that finds White “Remembering the Rain” and her happy go lucky suggestion that we (like she) grab “Some of that Sunshine” via her fresh interpretation of Karrin Allyson’s 2018 track. As we listen from our perspective now in Spring 2021, we can happily enjoy White and Johnson’s exquisite seamless magic while feeling reassured that the planet may be a bit scuffed, but at least it’s still here.