Album Review: Sack Full of Dreams from Hazel Mitchell-Bell
Album: Sack Full of Dreams
Artist: Hazel Mitchell-Bell
Label: CD Baby
Vocalist Hazel Mitchell-Bell might be new to the jazz palette, releasing her debut recording Stronger Than Ever in 2018 and following up with her sophomore effort Sack Full of Dreams in May 2021, but the bluesy crooning in her phrasing, the supple texture of her register, and the caressing aesthetics of her timbres are all familiar to listeners. Her blend of jazz, soul, R&B, and bossa nova feel like home, surrounding the listener in comfort and bliss.
Bell's memorable rendition of Woodrow Wilson and Buddy Johnson's gem "Save Your Love for Me" basks the listener in sheer bliss inlaid by embers of torch song-inspired soul. She switches to a Cajun blues swagger in "Do I Move You," penned by Nina Simone. Bell's command of Simone-imprinted blues demonstrates a dexterity that is laudable. Supported by a string quartet, she turns reflective in "This Bitter Earth," a tuneful melody written by Clyde Otis. Her treatment of the track accentuates the luxuriating swells of the melody as her steamy crooning caresses the melodic progressions.
The soaring nuances in her voicing bring out a radiant luster in "When Did You Leave Heaven," a bluesy ballad by Richard Whiting and Walter Bullock. Moving into a gypsy-tango-laden sway in Abbey Lincoln's mesmerizing "Throw It Away," Bell 's interpretation of the song stirs the listener's emotions. The lifting R&B grooves of "Spirit in the Dark" display a Motown-esque spree, featuring the Lomax Sisters on background vocals. The recording changes course on "Dance with My Father," a serenade by Luther Vandross and Richard Marx that she handles with engrossing tenderness. Trussing a bossa nova shimmy along "Where Is Love," written by Lionel Bart, Bell immerses herself in the pleasing aesthetics.
Teaming up with arranger and producer Vince Evans, Bell's keyboardist on the recording, the sophomore offering coalesces the familiar sounds of jazz, blues, R&B, soul, and bossa nova. Her classic vocal style feels like home for listeners, surrounding them in comfort and bliss.
Vince Evans: Piano, Organ, Melodica, and Synthesizer
JC Jefferson, Jr.: Drums
James B. King, Jr.: Bass
Kenny Rittenhouse: Trumpet
Craig Alston: Saxophone
Alvin White: Guitar
Kevin Kojo Prince: Percussion
Background Vocals: The Lomax Sisters (Sharon Lomax, Smith Valda Lomax, Parker Dorothea Lomax, Haynes Lolethia Lomax, and Frazier)
Special Guests: String Quartet
Asali Ruth McIntyre: Violin
Bonnie Grier: Violin
Gerard Battle: Viola
Denna Purdie: Cello