Arianna Neikrug: Changes review – a hugely impressive debut


This is 25-year-old Arianna Neikrug’s debut album, and a startling experience it can be, if you’re unprepared for it. Instead of the customary glossy full orchestra there is a piano trio, and the pianist (also arranger and producer) is Laurence Hobgood, for 20 years a close musical confidant of Kurt Elling. Between them they virtually rewrote the rulebook for jazz singing and raised technique to virtuoso level.

This is the point at which Neikrug, winner of the 2015 Sarah Vaughan international vocal competition, enters the scene. From the first half-minute it’s obvious that notes are no problem as she pitches immaculately over some very unlikely chords. The song is No Moon at All, famously recorded in 1955 by Julie London, and Hobgood is noted for doing radical things to old songs. As the set proceeds, through numbers associated with Al Green, the Jackson Five, Joni Mitchell and others, plus two attractive if slightly wordy originals, the scale of Neikrug’s talent becomes apparent. Her grip on time is quite extraordinary, and her scat singing totally convincing. It’s all a little intense, but as a display of endless potential hugely impressive.

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