Joy Lapps refreshed her solo catalogue with the release of her fifth album, Girl In The Yard, from Toronto on July 8. 2022. Joy plays steel pan and leads a Caribbean jazz fusion band.
Girl in the Yard is a party album that keeps a high level of jazz chops.
"Lulu's Dream", as the kids would say, is a movie; it ranges in dynamics and divides the attention between steel pan, saxophone, drums, and slap bass nicely.
"Josie's Smile" is a happy track with the full range of the steel pan, plus an alto sax solo that lays on some thick bebop language. Great variation of the groove within the arrangement, expertly done.
"Breathless" is a bit of a pop tune. Now I don't know what the balance will be between the two heavy, jazz-laced, longer and more complex first tracks – versus the straightforward arrangement here.
The answer? Somewhere down the middle. When I got to "Morning Sunrise", however, I remembered that without the right mix of ingredients, this stuff can sound like Weather Channel music.
Bluesy flute licks with a breathy tone, wordless background vocals, and less gripping improvisation: that's straight elevator music, and I wish it wasn't here on "Morning Sunrise". The big soli of bebop lines at the end is like an attempt to balance out a known commission of Muzak.
The rest of the album is strong, with mostly calypso-influenced grooves. "Fly" is the album's epic closer, in that it's long when you consider the intro track with it. But it doesn't have the same impact to me as the first two tracks.
The two reprise tracks don't add anything for me. "Lulu's Dream" stands out as my favourite, especially when you hear Joy and her band play it live in their JAZZ FM 91 feature. The ending is electric and sounds just like a dialed-in album performance.
Though I didn't enjoy "Breathless" – the pop tune – as much on repeat listens, I appreciate that it's there. It's good to know you can just put a track like this on a jazz album, try to be more broadly appealing, and have it still make total sense.