Natasha Agrama is considered part of a “jazz renaissance” that is reportedly happening in Los Angeles, California. Whether a person believes that such a cultural event is taking place or not, what is true is that Agrama delves into the nature of jazz, finds the point the song is making and interprets it thoughtfully. Her 2017 album, “Heart of Infinite Change” shares its name with her 2015 album. The reboot is the result of a change in record companies. For the latter album, some songs have been jettisoned and new songs added. For all the changes between albums, what is constant is Agrama’s voice. “In a Sentimental Mood” as interpreted by Agrama is the closest some people will get to jazz poetry.
“In a Sentimental Mood” by Natasha Agrama
“In a Sentimental Mood” as performed by Agrama sounds as though a young woman is reciting a poem in the confines of her bedroom. Listeners can imagine a scene as the deceptively gentle soundscape unfolds.
The song was written in 1935 by Duke Ellington. Later, lyrics were added. One famous version of the song features Ella Fitzgerald singing the after-the-fact vocals. Another famous instrumental version is by John Coltrane. “In a Sentimental Mood” merges the art of playing music with the poetry of the words. When sung well, listeners can feel that poetry in each measure. That is what happens in Agrama’s version. The effect is almost haunting.
For people born after the heyday of Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn, maybe one of the best examples of a rich voice might be Fiona Apple. One of. There is something about Agrama’s delivery that hints at a younger generation’s unrest and recalls Apple’s “Shadow Boxer”- era voice. Agrama’s multi-faceted voice also hints at a composite of pop and soul divas of the past 20 years.
The song opens with a keyboard of some kind playing a slow motif. An upright bass offers a deep, liquid-sounding series of notes that is like water dripping in slow motion. By the second verse, the soundscape speeds up just a little, but the bass never loses its pace or sound quality. A saxophone solo ushers in the next phase of the song. Agrama’s voice sounds more contemporary when it goes up slightly in register. When Agrama slips into vocalese and backup singers join in on variations of the syllable “ooh” it is a masterful aspect of “In a Sentimental Mood” that does strike listeners as “sentimental.” The song fades out with this texture created by Agrama and the backing vocalists. The soundscape is there but is in the background.
Agrama’s take on “In a Sentimental Mood” is beautiful and memorable and full of poetry in its phrasing and delivery.