Record Collector (magazine) - p.983 stars out of 5
-- "[I]t offers a vivid snapshot of the singer's vibrant, soulful style..."
Personnel: Nnenna Freelon (vocals); Sounds of Blackness, Take 6 (vocals, background vocals); Scott Sawyer, James Harrah, Julian Lage (guitar); Jessica Ivry (cello); Dave Valentin (flute); Gerald Albright (saxophone, tenor saxophone); Dick Oatts, Kirk Whalum (tenor saxophone); Matt Shulman (trumpet); Ed Neumeister (trombone); Takana Miyamoto (piano, electric piano, Fender Rhodes piano); Tim Heintz (piano, organ, keyboards); Brandon McCune (piano, organ); Michael Abene, Bill Anschell (piano); Wayne Batchelor (acoustic bass); Clarence Penn, Woody Williams, Ricky Lawson (drums); Luis Conte, Sammy Figueroa, Beverly Botsford (percussion).
Liner Note Author: Don Mizell.
Recording information: 02/1996-04/2005.
Photographer: Randee Saint Nicholas.
Arrangers: Nnenna Freelon; Brandon McCune.
Nnenna Freelon has recorded for the Concord label since 1996. Better Than Anything has some of the high points from her first nine years with the company, drawing its dozen selections from six previously released CDs. Freelon had developed into an individual voice and a subtle improviser before she hooked up with Concord but she has grown in depth ever since, being increasingly willing to take chances and stretch herself into other idioms while staying true to her jazz vision. On Better Than Anything, seven of the dozen selections are jazz standards, with "I Say a Little Prayer" and "Balm in Gilead" being among the exceptions. But even such tunes as "Them There Eyes" (taken from a project that had modernized versions of Billie Holiday-associated songs) and "Body and Soul" sound different than expected. The most joyful performance is "Straighten Up and Fly Right," which teams Freelon with Take 6. They should record a full-length project someday. Better Than Anything is an excellent all-round sampler, although Nnenna Freelon's best fans will prefer to obtain her original CDs individually. ~ Scott Yanow