In Cat Stevens Reconstructed, New York vocalist Jess Abrams performs her own interpretations of Stevens’ classic songs, providing a mellow alto tone and interesting variations on many of his greats. Reconstructed is pleasant, easy listening but Abrams smooth sounds lack the soul and flair of the original singer’s songs.
An enjoyable night of easy listening and the audience certainly seemed to enjoy themselves.
Focused entirely on Yusif Islam’s Cat Stevens days and primarily on his early albums including Matthew and Son and Tea for the Tillerman, Jess Abrams sings classics such as Where Do the Children Play, Wild World and Father and Son. Accompanied by piano and bass, Abrams creates entirely new arrangements of the Cat Stevens songs providing a mellow, soft jazz style. The musicians are fantastic and Abrams is a great singer, but her renditions lack Stevens’ passion. Where are the emotional outbursts, the letting rip and the powerful crescendos that made Cat Stevens’ songs so iconic? It would be fascinating to hear the raw vocals of Stevens’ songs interpreted with passion by a female artist, but Abrams keeps it mellow and low key and does not deliver the energy needed to make the songs resonate as they should.
Between songs Abrams talks about the meaning of the songs and the inspirations for them as well as discussing her own interpretations, lending some fascinating insight into both artists and their music. Abrams’ arrangements are very different from the originals at times altering the rhythmic style and delivery. Sometimes these changes are very interesting, but they also tend to feel like muted variations.
But it’s still good to hear Cat Stevens interpreted in new ways and Abrams and her musicians are very capable performers. Jess Abrams captures Stevens’ softer and warmer side well and it’s a nice and mellow night with very different variations of some of the greatest songs from a fantastic artist. The songs just lack passion and don’t always capture the depth of feeling behind Stevens’ greats. But it’s nevertheless an enjoyable night of easy listening and the audience certainly seemed to enjoy themselves.