It seems apt to be listening to jazz singer-songwriter Nicola Milan at this time of year. As the mercury drops, her second studio album Forbidden Moments begs to be enjoyed on a lazy Sunday afternoon, glass of red in hand. Produced with a $9,765 grant awarded by Arts WA and the Department of Culture, these ten original pieces move between bluesy swing, Latin, and folk to convey the emotional versatility and complexities of a talented and promising songstress. A WAAPA graduate and award winning songwriter, Milan’s vocals are warm, effortless and chocolaty, and occasionally spiked with a hint of something stronger.
The Scent of Her Perfume is pure drama. Sensual and passionate, Milan’s voice flirts with violinist Ashley Arbuckle’s sexy melodic passages in this bold tango. Arbuckle, former co-leader of the London Symphony Orchestra is joined by a series of distinguished jazz musicians including double bassist Pete Jeavons, guitarist Rick Webster and drummer Michael Perkins. Together they form a tight ensemble and Milan provides ample opportunities for each performer to shine. Their experience shows. The final track on the album, Latin inspired The Lonely Flute, brilliantly showcases flautist and saxophonist Michael Collinson, and pianist and accordionist Ben Clarke – a spicy combination.
The Waiting Game is a particular highlight. Departing slightly from the rest of the album, it is gentle and folkie. Milan’s lyrics are genuine, her voice delicate and fragile. My only qualm – Milan’s gorgeous husky tone occasionally descends into breathiness in the higher register. As a result, the voice sometimes lacks the emotional depth of the lyrics.
Witty, sophisticated and original, it is exciting to see such an intelligent and honest artist and songwriter surface in Australia. Milan’s album marks the beginning of a promising career.