Gaby Hernandez's new When Love recalls a different, less regimented era, a time when jazz and soul players converged around a notion of freedom from the constraints of genre, when a singer could team with musicians in the studio and expand the circle. Artists like Roberta Flack and Minnie Ripperton created sounds that came out of the 1970s soul movement, but sounded like free-floating jazz compositions with lyrical flourishes. For When Love, Hernandez teamed with Andres Renteria and Carlos Nino, two musicians perhaps best known for their work with Build an Ark and Life Force Trio, to create an expansive, organic album that recalls the free floating beauty of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks. Not that it's as lyrically advanced as Morrison's song-cycle. Hernandez attempts to address universal truths on When Love, and when she succeeds (“The Tropics,” “Sweetstakes”), there is beauty. But universal truths can easily slip into universal platitudes, and at times on the record, the lyrics, though sung beautifully with Hernandez's breathy, precise voice, ask big questions without seeming interested in answering them. But still, there are worse things than reaching for the Big Truths, and with Nino's and Renteria's production and instrumentation (along with musicians Phil Ranelin, Ralph Buzzy Jones and Rebekah Raff), Hernandez more often than not succeeds.
She performs When Love at On the Rox tonight. (Below is an mp3 from When Love, called “Sweetstakes”)