First Flight
Songs with music and lyrics by Damien Rice, Roland Perrin, Wendy Nieper, Pablo Neruda, Nat Simon, Buddy Bernier, Count Basie, Tadd Dameron, and Guy Wood & Guy Mellin
Wendy Nieper with Roland Perrin (piano), Dave Moses (bass & backing vocals), Helder Pack (drums) & Digby Fairweather (trumpet)

Recorded April, June & September 2010 at Porcupine Studios, London
CD No: FIRST HAND RECORDS FHR 10
Duration: 46 minutes
Reviewed: May 2011
Wendy Nieper first came to prominence in the 1990s singing in local jazz clubs while studying classical singing at the Birmingham Conservatoire. Moving to London she joined The Swingle Singers performing at jazz festivals, in concerts and at venues around the world including La Scala, the Châtelet in Paris and Ronnie Scott’s in London. Since leaving the The Swingle Singers she has become a jazz performer touring much of Europe and the UK. Her session work includes the films of “Harry Potter”, “Lord of the Rings”, “Star Wars” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. Her classical repertoire has found her singing with notable ensembles and recordings include songs by Canteloube and Chopin, as well as Bernstein and Sondheim. She also has the distinction of having been a personal coach to Sir Michael Caine.
“First Flight” is a mixture of the familiar and the relatively unknown. There are several songs by Nieper herself, writing with her co-producer and accompanist Roland Perrin, a mixture of up- and down-beat compositions. ‘What’ll it be?’ is up-tempo in a free jazz style, while ‘Retrospective waltz’ is a wordless scat number in which Nieper takes her voice every which way it can go with apparent ease. ‘Empty beach’ is more contemplative, not quite a torch song but heading that way and aided immeasurably by the plangent trumpet playing of Digby Fairweather. At the piano Perrin, no stranger to the classical field, provides strong accompaniment as well as some memorable compositions that sit midway between a strict classical style and the unfettered freedom of jazz improvisation.
The more familiar tracks are Nat Simon’s ‘Poinciana’, here performed with a gentle bossa nova rhythm producing an impressive number that is instantly ‘catchable’. Then comes the Count Basie/Tadd Dameron composition ‘Good bait’ with a Brubeck-ish opening that trips along with its own urgency. The last track of the ten is ‘My one and only true love’, music by Guy Wood and lyrics by Guy Mellin, in which a rippling piano accompanies a slow, thoughtful lyric to a melody that flows elegantly along before finally fading away.
Wendy Nieper’s voice rises up the register with great subtlety reaching for those soaring stratospheric notes with consummate skill. The liner notes invoke comparisons with Astrud Gilberto and Julie London but, as Wendy Nieper has also recorded Lucianio Berio’s Sinfonia (for eight voices and orchestra), she may well be setting off in a direction that could, with her pure, haunting vocal sound, produce another artist of the stature of Cathy Berberian.

 

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