Shine Sister Shine is Ian Shaw’s second album on Jazz Village, and comes hot on the heels of its predecessor, The Theory Of Joy (2016). It features the same, top-notch band – Barry Green on piano, Mick Hutton on bass and Dave Ohm on drums, but has quite a different vibe. As the title suggests, the album features songs written by women and about women. Naturally, there are some well-chosen covers, including old favourites such as Joni Mitchell and Phoebe Snow. But there are some surprises too, including Empire State Of Mind (New York) by Alicia Keys and some lesser-known delights, including Trip And Tumble by Judith Owen. The album also showcases Shaw’s considerable ability as a songwriter, including the title track, a co-write with singer-songwriter, and old friend, Tanita Tikaram. Taken as a whole, however, it feels a little less jazzy, a bit more singer-wongwriter/pop – which is not necessarily a bad thing, but may upset a few of the purists out there.
The album opens with Carry On World (Starring Everyone), which sounds like a tribute to some of the women who make his own world go round, including his sister. It’s an upbeat slice of jazz-soul, with a nice electric piano solo by Green – a nice way to open the album, and his recent performances at Ronnie Scott’s. I Don’t Know Enough About You was co-written by Peggy Lee in conjunction with Dave Barbour. It brings us back into jazz territory, but Shaw put his own spin on the song with some neat phrasing.
Trip And Tumble was written by Welsh songwriter Judith Owen, and the heartfelt vocal and gorgeous melody make this one of the album’s highlights for me. This Beautiful Life is another cover, this time by folk singer Julie Matthews. It’s a wonderful song, which deserves more attention, and is given the straight-ahead pop treatment here to good effect.
The title track is based on a melody by Ian Shaw, and features some simple but highly effective lyrics by Tanita Tikaram; the song is more soul than jazz, and features a gospel chorus as the song builds to a close. Lovely stuff, but again, perhaps not one for the purists. Keep Walking (Song For Sara), like My Brother on the last record, is a hymn to one of the refugees Shaw works so tirelessly to help.
Not The Kind Of Girl is another uncovered gem, this time by British singer and songwriter, Gwyneth Herbert. The song features some delightful playing by Green, and brush-drumming by Ohm, and demonstrates Shaw’s peerless ability with a ballad.
I was less enamoured by Empire State Of Mind; I do like the original, it should be noted, but thought that the chorus lost most of its hard-hitting power with the jazz arrangement. Shine, however, shines a light on one of Joni Mitchell’s lesser-known later songs, and demonstrates that she still remains topical – "shine on lousy leadership, license to kill", indeed.
The digital download and double-album vinyl feature three bonus tracks, including the wonderful On Saturday Afternoons in 1963 by Rickie Lee Jones.
Overall, there’s plenty to enjoy here. Maybe a little too much for some, as Shaw swings from jazz, to pop, soul to gospel. But onstage it all blends seamlessly – as my friend said on the album’s launch, he oozes music from every pore.