by Grammy Award Winner Bob Blumenthal

Resilience might seem like a surprising title for an artist whose trajectory has been as steady and rewarding as Rondi Charleston’s.  Each new album marks her accelerating growth as a singer and storyteller, as a band member and a songwriter.  She stands taller here than ever – her craft more finely calibrated, her scope broader and more adventurous – so why focus on the ability to pick oneself up?


The answer lies in Charleston’s sense of art as “reflecting what’s going on in an increasingly fragile and unpredictable world, and reflecting on what’s going on.” As she gathered and nurtured the sounds and images that make up these performances, drawing from both her own life and the world around her, she uncovered a common theme of finding resilience within oneself.  The story she tells in the opening track, a midweek-rush-hour dark night of the soul overcome by her band’s tensile beat, Tim Ries’ self-confident tenor sax and Charleston’s determined lyric and unshakable delivery, revealed the program’s seamless point of view. 

“Resilience’ came first and everything else flowed around it,” she admits, “from approaching personal setbacks to global issues like climate change and political instability.”

As on her previous album Signs of Life, Charleston displays a gift for turning personal experience into vignettes that resonate. “ Around the Corner,” which slyly anticipates a shift in narrative direction in its opening line, draws on an encounter that could have been reflected in bitterness; instead, it finds her, pianist Brandon McCune and guitarist Dave Stryker in a mood of quiet affirmation.  “Just a Heartbeat” builds upon another image from Charleston’s memory bank, and illustrates her confidence in allowing ideas to develop over time.  “I had an epiphany, when I saw this tiny image of my daughter Emma for the first time on an ultrasound screen, and I began to wonder if she would have the strength to survive in this world,” Charleston explains.  “The thought percolated in my head for 18 years, and then Emma’s leaving for college brought it out as a maternal reflection on the inner strength that is so important for all of our children.” In addition to the wisdom of the vocal, the track captures the band’s enveloping pulse, strong solos for Ries on flute and trumpeter Alex Norris, and what Charleston calls the “special sauce” that percussionist Mayra Casales lends to the music.

Two other originals broaden the boundaries of Charleston’s theme.   “Refugee,” inspired by a story in the New York Times of the sole surviving member of a family that fled Syria, is cast as a jazz waltz with deep blue tinges.  The rhythm section’s infectious, kinetic beat allows us to feel the rough waters Charleston describes, generating an elevated passion in both singer and band.  “Evidence” is a response to global warming and a call for worldwide resilience.  “I thought that Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, would have made the issue clear to everyone,” Charleston explains, “but that was ten years ago and we’re still having the debate.  It’s shocking, but we have to keep up the fight.”  Determined to create “the floating feeling of a Chopin etude, like flying over the earth and taking in its beauty,” she has fashioned a lyric delivered with empathy rather than anger, and cushioned by judicious overdubbing.  Norris sustains the mood with a lovely flugelhorn solo.

Rondi for Resilince

Recorded at Avatar Studios, NY on January 18 & 19, 2016
Produced by Dave Stryker and Rondi Charleston
Recorded and Mixed by Michael O’Reilly at Avatar Studios
Liner Notes: Bob Blumenthal
Composer, Vocals: Rondi Charleston
Composer, Guitar, Music Direction: Dave Stryker
 Percussion: Mayra Casales 
 Bass: Ed Howard 
 Drums: McClenty Hunter 
 Piano: Brandon McCune  
Flute, Saxophone: Tim Ries

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