I Can See Bliss From Here
Review by Kent Manthie
A new album's worth of music is out now from Lili Anel, entitled I Can See Bliss From Here, a really smooth, jazz-based sound; one from which one can hear 'bliss'.
On this new CD, Lili's collaborated with Dale Melton on about 90% of the songs, as well as a variety of backup musicians on the various songs – i.e., there are different lineups on each song; not a totally different group on each tune, but a great variety of rosters.
The opening cut, "Climb the Wall" starts the CD out. It truly is a blissful earful – it has a great jazz backing band playing behind her beautiful, heartfelt alto voice. Besides the 60s-era jazz sound in it there is also a bit of hybrid mixed in: especially via the percussion, the song adds a bit of Cuban Rumba and her singing is a smooth, velvety overlay. Right from that song and onwards, throughout the album, her voice reminds me a little of the legendary Joan Armatrading, both singers have somewhat deep, strong, powerful voices that rise above the music without taking away from the sensation of it. Another fabulous song on here is "Blindsided", a slow-ish tune that features a wonderful Hammond B3 organ that meanders throughout the song. "Living for Today" goes in a slightly different direction – instead of the sax & horns or the organ, much is made with a Latin rhythm and a jazzy acoustic guitar. "Got Me Thinking" slows things down a little, it's a pure pleasure to listen to – it reminds me, as well as other songs on here, of Joni Mitchell's legendary Blue. One other mention to make is another musician who is featured on many songs on I Can See Bliss From Here: drummer Charlie Patierno, who can really play those drums – besides keeping time, Charlie really takes off like a great jazz drummer would. As far as the aforementioned Hammond organ, as well as other keyboards – piano, "Wurli" piano and even picking up a Fender Telecaster guitar on one track ("This Love is Over").
I Can See Bliss From Here contains 12 tracks on it, averaging about 4:30 per song, some a little longer, a couple a little less, but each cut just seamlessly goes into the next without any inconsistencies or sounds that don't fit. Another tune worth pointing out is the quiet, but upbeat number, "Losing My Faith", featuring the splendid piano stylings of Dale Melton, who, on the inside of the CD sleeve, is mentioned as a good friend and at whose studio, "The Sandbox", I Can See Bliss From Here was recorded. Born in New York City's Spanish Harlem and raised also in the Bronx, Lili grew up in quite a diverse cultural melting pot of a city, which was a great driver of the sounds which has influenced her. In 2004 Ms. Anel moved to Philadelphia, where she was welcomed warmly by the local music scene; she was embraced with some Philly airplay as well as guest slots on NPR. In the time since, she started showing up in various places around the East Coast area, including Delaware, New Jersey and Lehigh Valley, PA.
The jazz & Latin rhythms of the music reflects not only the wide influences she picked up in NYC, but also from the fact that Lili comes from an African and Cuban hybrid heritage, which, musically, really does take a turn into a great combination that sizzles.
When she was getting started in her music training, she began by attending the Leonard Davis Center of Performing Arts, a part of the City University of New York, where she trained with legendary jazz vocalist Sheila Jordan for a year as a part of a one year workshop. The Performing Arts Center was a rigorous and stressful training program and besides the one year workshop in which she trained with Jordan, Anel stayed an additional year at the institute before taking a leave of absence from which she declined to return. Instead, she enrolled in Eddie Simon's "Guitar Study Center". This was quite an unusual experience: only able to afford the cost for about a year's worth of training there, she was determined to continue on and she did, by "auditing" many classes, where she did indeed pick up a lot of abilities that were, no doubt, already innate but which brought them out in the open. Soon after, Lili was showing up to various "open mic" sessions at Greenwich Village clubs which eventually led to her being "discovered", getting offered more and more gigs at clubs in the City, where she blossomed and at the same time, started putting together a backing band.
I Can See Bliss From Here is Ms. Anel's sixth CD and it is an exciting, fresh sounding album. As the years go by, it seems that Lili is progressing more and more, not merely running in circles. It's great when one comes across a singer/band who is continually progressing as time goes on and this is definitely the case with this album.
Any fan of jazz/Latin hybrid vocalized music should really get up and give I Can See Bliss From Here a listen. It is astounding how well synchronized the whole band is, including the singer. -KM.