By Will Layman, Pop Matters
Here is another record that probably shouldn’t be thought of as “jazz” but that is shot through with the kind of harmonic and melodic light that comes from this music. Emma Frank is a hush-voiced singer and writer of subtly brilliant songs, and this is her second recording with pianist Aaron Parks as a collaborator. Come Back improves on 2018’s Ocean Av. Parks contributes flashes of harmony that almost no folk or rock song would have use for. He doesn’t take many “jazz solos”, but Parks and Frank are a unit, integrated. She makes sense of his playing in a new way, and he seems to complete her in this set of nine miniature heart-tuggers.
The slightly tart tunes are complemented by literate lyrics that, nevertheless, cut to the center of the heart, addressing romance as poetry and yearning. Given that Frank and Parks manage to find original hooks amidst their mixture of songcraft and jazz, these love songs feel like they should be radio hits in some new era of grown-up pop music. Perhaps that’s asking way too much of today’s pop audience, but the music is good enough to work a miracle or two. Why not that one? – Will Layman