Day To Day Dream is the latest solo effort from Ghent, a stellar sixty minute effort that slips and skips between smooth, Gershwin-tinged jazz, swinging soul, and sunny ska. Its a confident and varied album, a perfect showcase for Ghent’s chops as a pianist and for her tremendous vocals.
Ghent’s got quite a voice, and it’s her most powerful weapon on the album, hurtling into the stratosphere or falling into a low croon at will. Ghent howls, growls and snarls with precision and feeling. Her band is made up of no slouches either. They’re all industry talents and they are more than up to snuff. Recorded live, the band sounds intimate, and the interesting arrangements bring in elements of harmonica, saxophone, trumpet, and some stunning bass.
Day To Day Dream is at its best when settling into a jazz and R&B groove. “He’s My Man” sounds exactly like these songs should–smoky, lush, romantic. Bassist Booker King is the hero on that track, giving the song the depth it requires, and it’s a standout track among many. “Phased” is a sustained five minutes of gorgeous melody, and “Run, Run, Run” is a bright, sparkling splash of fun in the middle of the achingly earnest jazz songs and swinging soul. Meanwhile, coffee houses should be scrambling to put her “Love Enough For A Lifetime” over their speakers.
The album is not without its weaknesses. Strangely, for an artist with such soul cred, it’s only when Day To Day Dream goes for all-out soul that the album starts to show some cracks. I don’t know if it’s due to the mixing or the live recording, but the saxophone and backing vocals sometimes feel thin when they should sound warm, and the songs just don’t pull you into the rhythm the way they should.
“Wheels on a Train” throws itself along with confidence and swagger, but the thinness of the production sometimes makes it sound like the facsimile of soul rather than the real thing. This doesn’t extend to Ghent’s piano or vocals, however, which dominate where they should, and thunder their way through the track. That said, it’s impossible to nitpick on “See It All”, a song where Ghent blows through these weaknesses through sheer force of piano and vocal virtuosity.
If Day To Day Dream has another weakness, it’s that the songs are sometimes too much technique and virtuosity and nothing else. The biggest culprit here is the lyrics, which, in songs like the title track “Day To Day Dream”, kind of just sit there. The rhymes are nimbly written, but the lyrics themselves don’t have much to say, and sometimes seem like placeholders, a necessary evil to contain Ghent’s bigger-than-life vocals and the band’s stellar performing. Ghent is also a little too in love with her melodies, and doesn’t let the songs get too far away from their choruses.
But these are minor complaints. In the face of some awesome songcraft and performances, there’s no question that this album is some quality work. And although it clocks in at 60 minutes, Day To Day Dream is varied enough that it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Valerie Ghent is obviously a talented, powerhouse singer/songwriter and if the album has anything to say, it’s that.
Day To Day Dream wil be released June 27th , on iTunes and CDBaby.