Simply grand, indeed
It’s become common to see veteran R&B singers thrust into the contemporary spotlight alongside a glut of younger guest stars recruited to provide marketplace allure for a new generation. Irma Thomas, however, doesn’t need to make a comeback, as she’s been recording regularly since 1959 and making great albums since signing with Rounder back in 1986. So, despite the likes of Norah Jones and John Medeski among the 12 visitors on Simply Grand, this project is a smart artistic concept. Take one of the world’s finest singers, pair her with a wide variety of pianists and a selection of impeccably chosen songs, and you get an album of elegant passion and restraint. There’s delicate jazz with Ellis Marsalis, punchy funk with Dr. John, ornate wizardry with Tom McDermott and sophisticated beauty with Randy Newman, all held together by a singer who lands straight in the heart of every song.