Music Editor, Dylan Bryant, praises the exceptional talent of Jazz singer, Judi Jackson.

During reading week, I went home for a few days and in preparation for listening to Judi Jackson’s new album ‘Grace’ with my dad, I prepared him an ‘Old Fashioned’ cocktail. Dimmed lighting and a glass of whiskey is a good way to enjoy the sophisticated sound of great jazz music and subscribing to this ritual was definitely the way to listen to Judi’s incredible new album.

Judi Jackson is an artist who stunned the world of Jazz with her indubitable world-class talent that earned her the acclaim of Vocalist of the Year at the 2020 Jazz FM Awards. Armed with this accolade and having released her incredible single ‘Crashing Down’ last year; the anticipation for her full-length album was real.

‘Grace’ is the magnum opus from Judi who has something that is truly special. She is blessed with the versatility of a voice that is both delicately nonchalant, yet powerful and touching. It’s something that touches all the emotions of life, including the happiness, the heartaches and the challenges and Judi is effortlessly comfortable whether it’s hitting the piercing high notes, or falling into the sonorous lows.

In terms of genre, Judi is naturally timeless as her style crosses over between London’s modern jazz scene and neo-soul and ‘Grace’ is the perfect representation of an artist who is more than capable of going all the way to the top.

If you’re new to Judi as an artist; the track ‘River’ is an exceptional introduction to her talent and ability as an artist. It is a song that serves as a poignant ballad that touches on the emotions of suffering, perseverance and harmony. Judi’s vocals express these feelings beautifully and the track ends with the stunning harmonising lyrics “flow like a river” which provide a resolution to a song that evokes such emotion both instrumentally and lyrically.

As an artist of such talent, Judi isn’t shy to collaborate with some of the music industry’s biggest successes. She co-wrote ‘River’ with Nicolas Littlemore of Empire of the Sun and also included string arrangements from the Grammy Award winner – Davide Rossi who has worked with the likes of Coldplay.

This album also demonstrates Judi’s refusal to be bottle-necked into one specific genre. Whilst tracks such as ‘Strawberry Lady’ surround the downtempo melodies of trip-hop, other moments on the record such as ‘Two of us’ serve up a completely different sound with its upbeat and addictive guitar riff.

This upbeat feel is something that Judi translates into her live performance and I was lucky enough to attend the 2018 recording of her album ‘Live in London’ where she danced and embraced the music, whilst moving effortlessly around the stage barefooted, wearing a red gown. Amongst her band was drummer Will Cleasby who has recently accompanied Jamie Cullum in the studio to record some tracks for his Christmas album this year.

Another moment of versatility on this album is ‘Sunrise’ which features a surprise guest – Arthur Verocai. The cult Brazilian artist whose 1972 self-titled record is appreciated as a hidden classic. This track offers a calming feel that is carried by a beautiful string arrangement and Judi’s soothing vocals.

All fifteen songs on this record were either written or co-written by Judi. Other notable collaborators include Tim Baxter (Muse, Jasmine Thompson), Reuben James (John Legend, Nile Rodgers) and Tom Excell, who is the leader of the Uk’s acclaimed afro-jazz collective Nubiyan Twist. 

A personal favourite track of mine is ‘Crashing Down’. Whilst I already loved the single version, which was released last year, the album adaptation is something that is truly magnificent. Rarely with a song do you find that an artist’s vocals transcend such emotion that you truly believe this is how they are feeling right at that moment. The track begins with the lyrics “Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down, but all of the time, all of the time, I’m happy you’re around”. These are accompanied by an emotive sequence of piano chords that elevate Judi’s words and I think lyrically this is Judi’s strongest track on the album. Before the song finishes; Judi climbs down the vocal scale before launching back into the chorus. ‘Crashing Down’ is a song that in my opinion puts Judi’s voice right up there with some of the most acclaimed singers of our time and she is a serious world-class talent that you need to get on your radar.

Judi finishes the record with the title track ‘Grace’. It’s dark feel is matched with Judi’s elegant delivery and it is an excellent conclusion to an album that showcases so much emotion and talent.

Whilst the album has been released on all major digital platforms; CD and vinyl formats will be available on January 28th, 2022. Seeing as it’s my Birthday a few days later, I’m hoping for an early birthday present, so Judi, if you’re reading this, please send me a vinyl copy!

Find Judi’s Album over on our Spotify via the QR code.

‘Grace’ Tracklist:

  1. Strawberry Lady
  2. Crashing Down
  3. Space Gyal (feat. Blue Lab Beats)
  4. Magic
  5. Little Sunflower
  6. Sunrise (feat. Arthur Verocai)
  7. River
  8. Strangest Engagement
  9. Spring
  10. Blue Baby
  11. Soliloquy
  12. Two of Us
  13. In the Night
  14. Over the Moon
  15. Grace
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