10 May Examiner.com: Carol Duboc smiles through tears in compelling new album with Jeff Lorber
“I love writing melodies to Jeff’s jazzy yet soulful changes. … When I arrived at Jeff’s he had an idea started and as usual his chords inspired a melody in me right away. … Many of the lyrics were inspired by my reactions to some of the struggles I was going through in my personal relationship at home. The Latin flavored ‘Parachute’ is about my hope that I could trust this person with my life and fly together in a parachute. By the time I wrote ‘Unpredictable,’ I realized that this collection of songs was evolving into my next, very unplanned, but very personal release.” -Carol Duboc
Carol Duboc’s upcoming album is the best musical anti-depressant. “Smile” feels — through its smooth, clear transitional turns and its uplifting themes of hope through trials — as cathartic as a support group.
The L.A.-based songwriter to many pop/R&B artists took a chapter from her own notebook to pen personal stories in these adult contemporary jazz repasts utterly lacking in self-pity or moroseness. She gets the pain, the anguish, the fear that we all have suffered, because she’s suffered them herself. It all got poured into this lovely, near-religious listening experience.
The title track (there’s an awesome official video attached too) goes into the long and the short of her recent, troubling journey – always with an eye toward the light at the end of that tunnel. For despite how dark the night, Duboc never forgets to remind us there is always daylight, often found in the most unexpected places.
When I first played her album, I smiled at the goofy poetry of “Elephant” (“And they’re standing in the shade that the elephant has made”), while quietly marveling at the progressive, crisp and clear, and cool chord changes. It is, after all, a major co-production of jazz great Jeff Lorber (who co-write all but one song with his writing partner Duboc). I couldn’t believe how beautifully rich and vibrant the sound quality of this music was.
But when “Smile” came on, from the first bright, uplifting notes of sunny guitar, I wept. I, too, had been going through a trial of hurt, how much I tried, the way I felt inside. This song of Duboc’s swept over me, her voice a real healing force. Because in that plaintive but pleasant voice and the convergence of the Lober Fusion “Galaxy” Group (who came together to work on this album), I felt heard.
“The melody came to me the minute I heard the chords [by Lorber], but in this case I was struggling with the words. I had begun to think everything was falling apart – but I looked at my daughter playing next to me and her smile inspired this song,” Duboc said. “I have never before written a song through a stream of tears but I was crying as I wrote and sang this in my studio. I realized that in the end all that matters to me is that she is happy.”
“While many of the songs such as ‘Elephant,’ ‘Telepathy,’ and ‘Nobody Knows’ tell of the struggles I was going through. Other songs like ‘Gliding,’ ‘Parachute,’ and the title track ‘Smile’ chronicle the hope that kept me going through it all. As a relatively new mother, I have found great inspiration from my smiling daughter, and with other things tumbling down before me at times, I found that the songs for the album almost wrote themselves.” —Carol Duboc
Hope through a stream of tears is exactly what Duboc and Lorber’s Group capture. Despite the serious, sobering content matter — “… my tears are falling down…” — she never loses sight of that “rainbow through the clouds,” in the lyrics, the melody, and especially the impossibly effervescent music. The music doesn’t rain down darkly, like a dirge. It belies the minor undercurrents in major tones, pushing the vocalist — and her listeners — to keep going forward toward the light of whatever makes us smile.
“I wanna send you, send balloons from heaven through the sky, just smile,” made me smile through my tears and forget that sense of failure that kept permeating my outlook all day. As a mother myself, I could relate to forgetting all my troubles when I looked at my own smiling child.
Isn’t that the most important part of making good music that lasts? “Smile” — the last song written for this album — is definitely a breakout hit, and one listeners will keep going back to.
All of the music in this album has a touch of class, enlivening whatever message of hope Duboc infuses. And no wonder. Look at the first-class session musicians: co-producer Jeff Lorber (keys, moog, guitar on “Telepathy”), guitarist Michael Thompson, pianist Tim Carmon (“Behind A Kiss”), drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, percussionist Luis Conte, electric bassist Jimmy Haslip, Grammy-nominated upright bassist Brian Bromberg, and Duboc’s long-time music partner, the legendary flutist Hubert Laws.
“Telepathy” and its catchy melodic hook, powered by the bass and scat-light with vocals and flute, are evidence of the high caliber of musicianship on this record, melding effortlessly with the vocals. Duboc always wanted to scat with her flutist. On this breezy, funky piece, she does, and she does it with a light touch.
It’s the vocals and what they impart that really sell this album —scheduled for a digital release on Mother’s Day, natch.
“Smile,” the sixth Gold Note Music recording, fairly flowed out of Duboc. Most all of the songs wrote themselves, as many personal songs tend to do. “While many of the songs such as ‘Elephant,’ ‘Telepathy,’ and ‘Nobody Knows’ tell of the struggles I was going through. Other songs like ‘Gliding,’ ‘Parachute,’ and the title track ‘Smile’ chronicle the hope that kept me going through it all. As a relatively new mother, I have found great inspiration from my smiling daughter, and with other things tumbling down before me at times, I found that the songs for the album almost wrote themselves.”
Duboc had left L.A. where she worked to enjoy motherhood back in Kansas City. When she returned a few short years ago, the amazing jazz keyboardist Jeff Lorber reached out to see if they might not again collaborate on some new stuff, since they hit it off so well as co-songwriters in the early 2000s.
Duboc and Lorber make a killer combo. Their natural dynamic and unorthodox process (she riffs off his chord changes) just work magic.
“When I arrived at Jeff’s he had an idea started and as usual his chords inspired a melody in me right away,” Duboc noted. “We continued to write songs over the next few months. Many of the lyrics were inspired by my reactions to some of the struggles I was going through in my personal relationship at home. The Latin flavored ‘Parachute’ is about my hope that I could trust this person with my life and fly together in a parachute. By the time I wrote ‘Unpredictable,’ I realized that this collection of songs was evolving into my next, very unplanned, but very personal release.”
Lorber, in turn, always has a great time slipping into sync with Duboc. “Carol is a wonderful singer and we always had great chemistry writing together in the studio,” he praised. “The thing that I love the most about writing with Carol is that it’s an effortless process. She seems to know exactly what melodies and lyrics to write to bring out the best in my chord progressions. It was an extra treat when Carol decided to go into the studio and work with some of the best musicians in Los Angeles (and on the planet) to bring these songs to life. It was so great to record everything live, which unfortunately is becoming a rare experience these days. Jimmy, Vinnie, Brian, Luis, Eric, and all the other musicians and engineers contributed so much to the music. I enjoyed working on the project very much and I hope lots of people get turned on to Carol’s immense talent.”
That’s another amazing thing about this album. They recorded most of the nuts and bolts of the songs live at L.A.’s Village Recorders in three days, Duboc singing with the band, every note perfectly polished, genuinely rendered — as if they underwent thousands of hours of rehearsals beforehand to get every note right. “Recording my vocals live with the band is important because it captures the spontaneity of our interaction and I find being supported by such a great band really inspiring,” she said. Then, guitarist Thompson went in and filled with textures, leaving an overall mesh effect.
Carol Duboc’s “Smile” is a contemporary jazz album that plays well, but feels better.