Norma Jean Bell Come Into My Room

Norma Jean Bell is a delightfully powerful one-woman act, combining her talents as alto and soprano saxophonist, vocalist and producer with brilliant but nonchalant aplomb. Though the talented artist has been around the block as a member of Frank Zappa's touring band and Tommy Bolin's jazz ensemble, there is a freshness to her debut album that reveals a sophisticated experience minus the fatigue or self-indulgence of years spent in the trade. The album pays homage to the Detroit house scene by counting Kenny Dixon Jr. as co-producer and mixer on several tracks, as well as including contributions from Kelli Hand and Theo Parrish. Another reference is the sampled radio snippets of Detroit radio DJ the Electrifying Mojo. Mojo made it his mission to save Detroit from musical inanity in the late '70s and '80s, and his peripheral presence lends greater urgency to Bell's own efforts. These are a carefully constructed series of tracks that allow Bell to reorganise her large back catalogue found on her Pandamonium label. Employing the vocal talents of Debbie Welch and Sharon Jones, in addition to her own, Bell kicks off the set with her celebrated 1996 track "I'm the Baddest Bitch," found then on Laurent Garnier's F Communications label. The potential anthems keep coming with the pummelling bass and cool oozing saxophone twists through "Yes I Am (I'm gonna get you)," and Bell shows a proclivity for polyrhythmic mayhem on "Do You Wanna Party?" Though a multi-instrumentalist, Bell doesn't drown the tracks with "over the top" jazz riffs or diva-esque romps. The second half of the album shows her skills as a producer, with tracks that become increasingly beat-centric and minimalist. So far, it seems Bell can do no wrong. (Peacefrog)