Domino by Ella Thompson – Album Review

Ella Thompson Domino Album Review

By Ellie Victor

As an introduction to a new voice in light jazz, with a side serving of soul with cinematic undertones, Ella Thompson’s Domino is undoubtedly a success, even if the listener is left craving a bigger variety of dishes by the end.

The title track is an appetising opener, rendered in sweet, soft vocals, which dance on light and airy soul-jazz arrangements. It lays down a lovely, amorphous soundscape that sets the mood for the rest of the record – even though it’s a mood which hardly shifts at all.

The smoky and sinuous ‘Lotus and the Lily’ is as an early standout, encapsulating the complexity and depth the listener might expect from a singer with Thompson’s credentials – she’s a music teacher in another guise – the track draped in rich vocal textures and layered musicality. It segues smoothly into ‘To Light The Lantern’, a true torch song for lost souls, a slow-burner with its musical embers glowing in the fade out.

Nevertheless, as neat as these three tracks on Side 1 are, you start to yearn for some dynamism. The album, although skilfully and authentically executed, seems to play it safe within its soul-jazz confines.

Side 2 ventures to shake things up a bit. Opener ‘Never Fight The Way You Feel’ introduces a neat soul groove, the lyrics diving into the themes of connection, yet paradoxically it fails to forge a strong emotional bond.

Ella Thompson Domino Album Review cover“Stylistic elegance”

‘Wouldn’t It Be Easy’ evokes the café jazz vibes of late-era Style Council, highlighting Thompson’s capability to explore different dimensions of jazz while staying rooted in her own unique style.

The album concludes with ‘When The Cold Wind Blows,’ a sleepy, late-night jazz number. It starts off mellow but gradually picks up pace, ending on a high note. Thompson’s vocals are captivating, gracefully weaving through the arrangement like a siren’s call in the midnight air.

Domino is a commendable first outing for Ella Thompson, to damn it with faint praise. It’s a good introduction to her as a new voice in light jazz, but leaves the listener wishing for a touch more dynamism. The album’s forays into soul and cinematic music do offer variety, but the emotional intensity takes a backseat to stylistic elegance. This leaves the album not as a fully-fledged roller coaster, but as a scenic car ride through a haunting landscape.

I’m certain Ella Thompson has the skill to embrace more dramatic ebbs and flows, to match the obvious potency of her vocal and compositional talents, in the future.
Top image: Lilli Waters


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