Album Review, July 2021
Sack Full Of Dreams
A powerful yet subtle singer based in Washington D.C., Hazel Mitchell-Bell straddles several genres on her second CD, following her 2018 debut Stronger Than Ever. She sings jazz very well yet, as the last few numbers on Sack Full Of Dreams demonstrate, she also loves r&b and soul music.
The diverse set has the singer working with her musical director and keyboardist Vince Evans, a fine rhythm section, occasionally trumpeter Kenny Rittenhouse and saxophonist Craig Alston (both of whom are strong assets whenever they appear), a string quartet on four numbers, and background singers on three selections.
The set begins as a jazz album with the singer recalling Ernestine Anderson and Nancy Wilson with her injection of soul into such songs as “Where Is Love,” “When Did You Leave Heaven,” and the title cut. She has a mature and confident delivery, does a close impression of Abbey Lincoln on the classic “Throw It Away,” and can belt out notes whenever a song needs it. She should record a full jazz CD sometime.
The last four songs (including one apiece by Aretha Franklin and Luther Vandross) find her switching to r&b and pop, assisted by the four background singers on two of the numbers. Hazel Mitchell-Bell excels in this area too, making this an excellent CD (available from www.hazelmitchellbellmusic.com) for listeners with ears open to the different styles.
– Scott Yanow, L.A. Jazz Scene
Album Review, May 21, 2021
Sack Full of Dreams from Hazel Mitchell-Bell-
Vocalist Hazel Mitchell-Bell might be new to the jazz palette, releasing her debut recording Stronger Than Ever in 2018 and following up with her sophomore effort Sack Full of Dreams in May 2021, but the bluesy crooning in her phrasing, the supple texture of her register, and the caressing aesthetics of her timbres are all familiar to listeners. Her blend of jazz, soul, R&B, and bossa nova feel like home, surrounding the listener in comfort and bliss.
Bell's memorable rendition of Woodrow Wilson and Buddy Johnson's gem "Save Your Love for Me" basks the listener in sheer bliss inlaid by embers of torch song-inspired soul. She switches to a Cajun blues swagger in "Do I Move You," penned by Nina Simone. Bell's command of Simone-imprinted blues demonstrates a dexterity that is laudable. Supported by a string quartet, she turns reflective in "This Bitter Earth," a tuneful melody written by Clyde Otis. Her treatment of the track accentuates the luxuriating swells of the melody as her steamy crooning caresses the melodic progressions.
The soaring nuances in her voicing bring out a radiant luster in "When Did You Leave Heaven," a bluesy ballad by Richard Whiting and Walter Bullock. Moving into a gypsy-tango-laden sway in Abbey Lincoln's mesmerizing "Throw It Away," Bell 's interpretation of the song stirs the listener's emotions. The lifting R&B grooves of "Spirit in the Dark" display a Motown-esque spree, featuring the Lomax Sisters on background vocals. The recording changes course on "Dance with My Father," a serenade by Luther Vandross and Richard Marx that she handles with engrossing tenderness. Trussing a bossa nova shimmy along "Where Is Love," written by Lionel Bart, Bell immerses herself in the pleasing aesthetics.
Teaming up with arranger and producer Vince Evans, Bell's keyboardist on the recording, the sophomore offering coalesces the familiar sounds of jazz, blues, R&B, soul, and bossa nova. Her classic vocal style feels like home for listeners, surrounding them in comfort and bliss.
Vince Evans: Piano, Organ, Melodica, and Synthesizer
JC Jefferson, Jr.: Drums
James B. King, Jr.: Bass
Kenny Rittenhouse: Trumpet
Craig Alston: Saxophone
Alvin White: Guitar
Kevin Kojo Prince: Percussion
Background Vocals: The Lomax Sisters (Sharon Lomax, Smith Valda Lomax, Parker Dorothea Lomax, Haynes Lolethia Lomax, and Frazier)
Special Guests: String Quartet
Asali Ruth McIntyre: Violin
Bonnie Grier: Violin
Gerard Battle: Viola
Denna Purdie: Cello
Classy and uptown soft swing and soul is delivered by vocalist Hazel Mitchell-Bell as she gives tribute to all of the right inspirations on this recent album. She has a patient and relaxed delivery, sort of like a nuanced Nancy Wilson, but she shows that she can also burn the embers hot, getting swampy on Nina Simone’s “Do I Move You” with guitarist Alvin White. The core team of Vice Evans/p-key, JC Jefferson Jr/dr, James B. King Jr/b, Kenny Rittenhouse/tp and Craig Alston/sax help set moods ranging from a soft and bluesy title tune to a sweet and samba’d take of “Where Is Love”. Mitchell-Bell shows her church roots as she melds Sunday morning, street soul and jazz to Jefferson’s cadence on “Hurry Up This Way Again” with aplomb, while she testifies to Aretha Franklin’s “Spirit In The Dark”. She shows how to get cozy with a lyric with Evans and King on “When Did You Leave Heaven” while shining like a disco ball on the soulful “What I Did For Love” and glowing like a candle with string support for the personal “Dance With My Father” and “Meet Me on The Moon”. This lady sings like she has nothing to prove, thereby proving a lot.
– George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly
If there’s something in the water, Mitchell-Bell has been wetting her whistle at the same fountain as Amber Weekes and Nnenna Freelon have been lately. Running the jazz/soul/blues gamut on a well broken in set of tunes from across the ages while making them all her own, this is top shelf jazz vocal, with a top shelf crew in tow. Solid. (Jazz Beyond Borders)
– Chris Spector, Midwest Record
On this sophomore album from jazz & blues singer Hazel Mitchell-Bell, she interprets classics from jazz, blues, R&B and Broadway. She proves that she’s a versatile singer, and one to be reckoned with.
Uit Washington, D.C. komt het geluid van jazzzangeres Hazel Mitchell-Bell. In 2018 kwam haar debout ‘Stronger Than Ever’ uit, een samenwerking met pianist, arrangeur & producer Vince Evans. Maar Hazel treedt ook op met big bands en kleinere ensembles, maar ook op festivals en in clubs. Ze werd geboren in Fayetteville, North Carolina, maar haar ouders verhuisden al gauw naar Washington, D.C. Muziek was al van kindsbeen af in haar leven aanwezig, want ze komt uit een muzikale familie. Ze werd beïnvloed door Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Phyllis Hyman enz. Hazel ging later werken voor de regering, en was daarnaast ook bedrijvig als model. Pas na haar pensioen werd ze fulltime zangeres. Op dit nieuwe album, waarop ze opnieuw samen met Vince Evans samenwerkt, brengt ze 12 tracks. Hazel verbreedt haar repertoire en koos voor interpretaties van jazz, blues, R&B en Broadway tunes. Daarvoor wordt ze bijgestaan door een bassist, een drummer, en gastmuzikanten op gitaar, sax, trompet en strijkinstrumenten. Opener is meteen de optimistische titeltrack, een cover uit 1968, waarop ze terugkijkt op haar carrière als regeringsambtenaar, maar tevens op het overlijden van haar dochter en echtgenoot. ‘Where is Love’ drijft op een Latin ritme, en is afkomstig uit de Britse musical ‘Oliver!’. Blues/jazz komt er met de ballade ‘Save Your Love for Me’ uit 1955, waarna haar versie van Nina Simone’s blues ‘Do I Move You’ volgt. ‘This Bitter Earth’ is een cover van de klassieker van Dinah Washington, gevolgd door ‘Hurry Up This Way again’, een soulsong van The Stylistics uit de Phillysound. Met de ballade ‘When Did You Leave Heaven’ uit 1936 keert ze terug naar de blues, waarna ‘Throw it Away’ geïnspireerd werd op de tango. ‘Spirit in the Dark’ is een song van Aretha Franklin, een fusie van blues & gospel me een koor achter haar. Nog meer soul met de mooie ballade ‘Dance With My Father’ van wijlen Luther Vandross. Het bekende ‘What I Did for Love’ stamt uit de musical ‘A Chorus Line’ uit 1975, gevolgd door ‘Meet Me on the Moon’, een cover van wijlen Phyllis Hyman. Hazel bewijst hiermee dat zij een veelzijdig zangeres is, en eentje om in de toekomst rekening mee te houden!
From Washington, D.C. comes the sound of jazz singer Hazel Mitchell-Bell. In 2018 her debut Stronger Than Ever was released, a collaboration with pianist, arranger and producer Vince Evans. But Hazel also performs with big bands and smaller ensembles, as well as at festivals and in clubs.
She was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, but her parents soon moved to Washington, D.C. Music has been a part of her life since childhood, as she comes from a musical family. She was influenced by Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Phyllis Hyman etc. Hazel later went to work for the government, as well as being active as a model. Only after her retirement did she become a full-time singer.
On this new album, on which she again collaborates with Vince Evans, she brings 12 tracks. Hazel broadens her repertoire and has opted for interpretations of jazz, blues, R&B and Broadway tunes. She is assisted by a bass player, a drummer, and guest musicians on guitar, sax, trumpet and string instruments. The opening track is immediately the optimistic title track, a cover from 1968, on which she looks back on her career as a government official, but also on the death of her daughter and husband. "Where is Love" floats to a Latin rhythm, from the British musical Oliver! Blues/jazz comes with the ballad "Save Your Love for Me" from 1955, followed by her version of Nina Simone's blues "Do I Move You." "This Bitter Earth" is a cover of the Dinah Washington classic, followed by "Hurry Up This Way Again, a The Stylistics soul song from the Philly sound. With the 1936 ballad "When Did You Leave Heaven" she returns to the blues, after which "Throw it Away" was inspired by the tango. "Spirit in the Dark" is a song by Aretha Franklin, a fusion of blues & gospel with a chorus behind her. Even more soul with the beautiful ballad "Dance With My Father" by the late Luther Vandross. The famous "What I Did for Love" comes from the 1975 musical A Chorus Line, followed by "Meet Me on the Moon," a cover by the late Phyllis Hyman. Hazel proves that she is a versatile singer, and one to be reckoned with in the future!
– Patrick Van de Wiele, Keys and Chords
2021 Reviews for Sack Full of Dreams
Mitchell-Bell has a voice which is fresh and compelling and gripping. A fresh voice to enjoy.
– Robert Rusch, Cadence Magazine
A superior voice. I mean very easy, without strain, and sounding like she could sing all day long if necessary. Stylistically the thirteen tracks are covers of timeless classics from the Great American Songbook. Backed by an eleven piece orchestra, Mitchell-Bell never seems overshadowed by the musicians. She holds her own with style and grace and the music flows along. Sit and enjoy a superior vocalist who can easily, very easily in fact, deliver the goods.
– Paul Wilson, Audiophile Audition
The first from the powerhouse singer Hazel Mitchell-Bell. Still, Mitchell-Bell is not new to jazz, or other genres, for that matter. The album brims with vitality, class and an overall musicality from the first track to the last. “Stronger Than Ever” is the kind of album that makes audiences wish there were more recordings by the performer that they could get their hands on immediately.
– Dodie Miller Gould, Lemon Wire
She's a classic jazz thrush all the way. With a tight band that knows the ropes providing the setting, this isn't nostalgia, it's a classic sound on a classic date. Well done.
– Chris Spector, Midwest Record
Backed by an all star band led by Vince Evans, Stronger Than Ever introduces a new voice to the world of jazz. But make no mistake, it is a voice to be reckoned with.
Dr. Nick, WPFW-FM, 89.3, Washington, D.C.
Hazel Mitchell reveals a beautiful, sensitive and warm voice that pays tribute to some great jazz classics.
– François Becquart Aucun, Music in Belgium
Hazel Mitchell reveals a beautiful, sensitive and warm voice that pays tribute to some great jazz classics, such as "For Women," a hit by Nina Simone, the swinging swing of "Let There Be Love" (song written in 1940 but popularized by Nat King Cole in 1961) or Autumn Leaves," which is an English translation of the famous song "Les Feuilles Mortes' by Prévert and Kosma. France is still in the spotlight with the resumption of the eternal "What Is Left of Our Love?" Charles Trenet, known in English as "I Wish You Love." "Everything Must Change” is a song that appeared on Randy Crawford’s first album in 1976, written by Bernard Ighner. The beautiful interpretation presented by Hazel Mitchell-Bell is an opportunity to rediscover this beautiful song. Same silky and romantic atmosphere for “Feel Like Making Love,” originally played by Roberta Flack in the 70’s. We stay in timeless jazz with “Willow Weep For Me,” a song dating back to the 1930s and which has also had many interpretations (George Benson, Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, Art Tatum . . .)
We could also mention “Skylark” (Bing Crosby), “One Note Samba” (Joao Gilberto), “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (Peggy Seeger, then Roberta Flack), “The Makings of You” (Curtis Mayfield) or “Louisiana Sunday Afternoon” (Diana Ross) to have a full view of the very interesting and captivating choice of these selections in which Hazel Mitchell-Bell transitions completely at ease. The musicians who accompany her are also an important element for the construction of this quality album that will delight lovers of classical and satin jazz.
Il n’est jamais trop tard pour bien débuter. La chevelure blanche et le look de vénérable douairière d’Hazel Mitchell-Bell montrent que cette dame n’est pas née de la dernière pluie. Mais c’est pourtant un premier album qu’elle défend ici, avec un ʺStronger Than Everʺ qui visite quelques standards du répertoire classique américain du jazz, de la soul ou de rhythm ‘n blues. Oui, pour visiter l’univers musical d’Hazel Mitchell-Bell, ce sera donc tenue de soirée, boutons de manchettes, champagne millésimé et club feutré.
Michael Doherty’s Music Log
On her new album, Stronger Than Ever, vocalist Hazel Mitchell-Bell delivers some passionate and moving renditions of classic material, including songs by Nina Simone, Ann Ronell and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Joining her on this release are Craig Alston on saxophone and flute, Vince Evans on piano and keyboards, Robert Fiester on guitar, James B. King Jr. on bass, J.C. Jefferson Jr. on drums, Asali Ruth McIntyre on violin, Bonnie Grier on violin, Gerard Battle on viola, Denna Purdie on cello, Chris Barrick on vibraphones, and Kim Sator-Randolph on harp. Read more
George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly
I’ve never heard any material from Hazel Mitchell-Bell, probably due to the fact that she’s based in Washington DC, but this album is impressive as she mixes jazz with soul and R&B, showing she knows how to work a room. She’s supported by Craig Alston/sax-fl, Vince Evans/p-key, Robert Fiester/g, James B. King Jr/f, JC Jefferson Jr/dr and a stringquartet on this wide ranging session. She shows how to get swampy as she works a sweat on “Rio De Janeiro Blue” and swings like a tetherball with Evans on “Let There Be Love.” She’s bold and defiant with organ on “Willow Weep For Me” and bohemian blue as Jefferson supplies moody mallets for a wistful “Autumn Leaves.” Alston’s tenor adds to the richness of an assured “Everything Must Change” and her take of Nina Simone’s “Four Women” is husky and evocative without being preachy. Classy and timeless in both material and delivery.
Paul Wilson, Audiophile
On her new album, Stronger Than Ever, vocalist Hazel Mitchell- Bell delivers some passionate and moving renditions of classic material, including songs by Nina Simone, Ann Ronell and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Joining her on this release are Craig Alston on saxophone and flute, Vince Evans on piano and keyboards, Robert Fiester on guitar, James B. King Jr. on bass, J.C. Jefferson Jr. on drums, Asali Ruth McIntyre on violin, Bonnie Grier on violin, Gerard Battle on viola, Denna Purdie on cello, Chris Barrick on vibraphones, and Kim Sator-Randolph on harp.
Based on several recent releases, the Washington D.C. jazz scene if full of talent and thriving. Just last week we reviewed saxophonist Jordon Dixon. Recently this writer also was moved by D.C.’s Coniece Washington’s tribute to her idol, Shirley Horn, on Shades of Shirley Horn. Key to that album as well as this outstanding debut from vocalist Hazel Mitchell-Bell is pianist and arranger Vince Evans. Mitchell-Bell is a veteran singer, equally comfortable in jazz, soul, R&B and probably other formats too. Her range is impressive, sometimes moving from alto to soprano in the same song. Her intonation and phrasing are right on and she draws that ever sensitive line between being both sultry and classy. And, she has courage. Not many would choose to cover Nina Simone let alone open an album with Nina’s provocative “Four Women” as Mitchell-Bell does here on this rather unique concept of marrying Soul and R&B hits with those of the Great American Songbook. . . . Hazel Mitchell-Bell is one of the most impressive vocalists to enter this incredibly competitive arena of jazz vocalists. Already she stands near the top. This is highly recommended. You will listen repeatedly. Read more
2019 Reviews for Stronger Than Ever