If smooth jazz radio programmers ever get on the stick and realize that genre fans still want to hear unique new vocalists with soul and vision—rather than more Anita Baker and Phil Collins oldies--newcomer Nyee Moses’ self-titled debut will be the place to start the new trend. She’s already getting a lot of buzz behind the scenes. Radio promotion guru Cliff Gorov, who is getting behind the high-spirited, breezy and exotic opening track “Between Us,” calls her “a fresh, unique voice for the format.” (Are you programming directors listening?) DJ Aja from the U.K.’s Jazz Syndicate adds that she’s “an incredible nu-talent. A lady strictly on the cool side of soul!” And DJ Rafe Gomez of The Groove Boutique syndicated radio show says, “this sensuous chanteuse has discovered the perfect balance between groove and smooth and the result is a refreshing audio journey.”
Praise like that wouldn’t mean much if Moses wasn’t so effortlessly successful at getting your toes tappin’ at the same time she tugs on your heart and makes you think of the rhythm of romance. To paraphrase the lone cover song on her remarkably fresh, soulful and seductive self-titled debut, “Summertime” and the listening is easy…and sensuous. Although her powerful contemporary twist on the Gershwin classic—complete with an irresistible, socially incisive rap interlude by Krayzie Bone from Bone Thugs-N- Harmony--is tucked at the end of the collection, the track says it all about the ethereal-voiced singer’s dynamic swirl of old school and modern sensibilities. Credited as The Revolution Mix, it features Moses’ dreamy, calming voice and occasional flute harmony (by the legendary Hubert Laws!) floating over a cool, hip-hop shuffle groove and a caressing retro-soul atmosphere; the juxtaposition of her calming ambience and Krayzie Bone’s hypnotic talk of revolution and the struggle to survive takes the legendary song to a level The Gershwins could never have fathomed.
Beyond that, the core of Nyee Moses is less sociopolitical commentary than sweet, late night sexy romance, incorporating exotic elements (Spanish guitars on the aforementioned opening declaration of love “Between Us,” subtle African chanting intertwining with her vocals on “Acacia Tree”), jazz textures and a unique mix of modern grooves and world beat percussion. The result is a sound that is best described as ambient soul for the post-Sade generation, which would be as at home in the smooth jazz format as it would on Urban AC radio. Rather than overwhelm with vocal histrionics, Moses smartly realizes that the way to the listener’s heart is subtlety and slow burning magic; her whisper of “sexy talk” at the beginning of the Bass Over Babylon Mix of “Love Is A Lion” makes a definitive statement about her gentle but insistent emotional takeover.
Tracks like this one, the boundary busting “No Limits” and “Call Me” can be enjoyed purely for the candlelight of the music, but her words are an invitation to a deeper passionate experience as well. On a few cuts, Moses ventures from the straightforward sensuality into more thoughtful spiritual territory, most notably on “The Journey” and the inspirational and encouraging “Under The Sun,” which features some of the disc’s most exciting percussive voice textures behind her lead vocal. When Moses sings, “Tell her it will be okay…you will find your way,” she captures the overriding hopeful feeling of the whole album. As you listen, you’ll find yourself swaying and dreaming along with her.
When an artist is first breaking out, a good way to gauge potential for longevity is how well he or she hangs with the best musicians in the business. There’s no doubt that during these sessions, Moses completely charmed every one of these top players: Otmaro Ruiz, Rene Toledo, Kevin Ricard, Lenny Castro, Pedro Eustache, Ramon Stagnaro, Reggie Hamilton, Hubert Laws, Hami Dair, Gregg Reeves and Peggy Baldwin. As they play on this wonderful disc, you can almost feel them shouting and singing: Go Down Moses! (There’s a lot of jazz and R&B fans hungry for great stuff like this!)