Lauren Lee’s The Queen of Cups

FJR founder, Jordannah Elizabeth’s May 2021 review for New York City Jazz Record.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, composer Lauren Lee began to rethink and reconstruct songs meant for her trio, gathering freshly composed repertoire and old songs, which manifest on her third album, The Queen of Cups. This solo vocal and piano album consists of half original music and half reimagined standards that stem from Lee’s intricate imagination and distinct compositional style. One of the most enticing components is the esoteric title. This mystical tarot card archetype is that of a being who wades deeply within her emotions and flows in the watery depths of her empathic and caring behavioral projections.

The Queen of Cups sits on a throne reigning alone, which lends insight into the metamorphosis of trio music into a solo effort. Lee performs her sparse pieces, personal lyrics and unique scatting technique with confidence and quietly crisp production. Opener “Cognition” offers rich piano, which rings and sonically glows against voice. Lee does not sing lyrics, but instead creates romantically somber melodies. “Up in the Air” features the careful layering of voice, piano playing simple notes and chords in support of the structured juggling of vocal expressions. Ralph Rainger-Leo Robin’s “If I Should Lose You” is minimal and haunting, Lee accompanying herself with organ. She has created her own lane when it comes to reinterpreting jazz standards, taking the barest elements, the bones of jazz favorites, drawing them into her own world and offering up versions never done before.

That is true for Axel Stordahl-Paul Weston-Sammy Cahn’s “I Should Care”, done in a slightly more upbeat interpretation. Lee creates a postmodern minimalistic musical reality, which invokes yearning to learn more about her inspiration. She doesn’t seem to have misgivings about making music exactly the way she pleases and there’s courageousness in the crux of her sparse music

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