As a musician and a columnist, I never cease to be amazed at just how much astounding talent there is in our part of the world.
From Sharon Jones to the recently returned Wycliffe Gordon, it just seems that recently more and more local musicians are drawing rave notices from all over the world.
You can now add Aiken’s Lauren Meccia to that esteemed group. Her new album, Inside Your Eyes, is chock full of great musicianship and singing. It flows as sweetly as the Savannah as the numbers reflect her many vocal influences that include Eva Cassidy, Norah Jones and Ella Fitzgerald.
Inside Your Eyes features standards such as Irving Berlin’s Cheek to Cheek; Jobim’s One Note Samba; and two sublime Bacharach and David numbers, The Look of Love and What the World Needs Now.
There’s also a couple of fine originals, including the delightful title track that was written by Meccia and pianist extraordinaire and Ron Carter Band member Donald Vega.
Vega’s sensitive virtuosity is straight from the Oscar Peterson/Bill Evans “playbook of smooth.” His fine work on the keys also reminds me of Michael Omartian’s melodic work on my favorite Steely Dan album Aja.
Meccia, who is also the director of jazz ensembles at the University of South Carolina Aiken, is not just a terrific singer but also an extremely gifted saxophonist.
However, it’s her sensuous vocal stylings, which have been described as being “like medicine,” that jumps to the fore on this outing.
Although the album is billed as a solo release, it’s actually a group of musicians who perform often in the Aiken area as The Mike Frost Band. The foursome plays at numerous Aiken venues, including The Red Pepper and the Aiken Speakeasy and Eats.
Frost, who moved down South from his native New York to work with the legendary Jesse Colin Young, first worked with Meccia when she was strictly an instrumentalist.
“When she first joined the group, I had never heard her sing,” Frost said. “One evening, someone made a request for Bye Bye Blackbird and Lauren said she could sing it. She did, and I was blown away!”
Meccia was equally enamored with the Frost trio. “When I first heard them play, I felt that I had to be in a jazz club in New York, not South Carolina!”
Frost is wise in shifting the focus to Meccia, who commands your attention whether it’s on stage or part of a recording. Says the bassist, “As soon as I heard her sing, I started to change all of the band’s arrangements to feature her voice.”
Inside Your Eyes is one of those rare recordings that begs for future listens. When the disc gently concludes with Meccia’s nod to Eva Cassidy on Harold Arlen’s Over the Rainbow, it makes you wish there was more. Isn’t that what a great work is all about? Yes!
You can order the disc as well as several earlier Meccia/Frost offerings (including CD and DVD versions of their marvelous Live at the Red Pepper set) at mikefrostband.com or laurenmeccia.com or at their shows.