Singer Frankie Alexander has been preaching the jazz gospel in and around Durham for more than a quarter-century. As a student of the legendary Bus Brown, she emerged from that onetime jazz crucible on Chapel Hill Street, the Salaam Center, and hasnt looked back. In fact, fueled by an Emerging Artists grant from the Durham Arts Council, Alexander has just released her debut CD, Mad About the Words, on her own PanJac imprint.
The title is a play on Noel Cowards tune Mad About the Boy, explains Alexander. Its my response to restaurant managers who book instrumentalists to perform, but refuse to hire singers. The words you sing will distract my patrons from their food. Thats what they say. And my response is always: But Im mad about the words. What Im trying to say is that I love lyrics. Thats why Im a singer.
Frankies earnest tone on the CD recalls that of late diva Betty Carter: dark, sandpapered, part worldly-wise woman, part little-girl blue. Unlike Carter, who could scat like a swift bird, Alexander never rushes. She favors a relaxed glide, a pace that allows her wide vibrato plenty of time to snuggle up around a note rather than nailing it spot-on. Most of the 10 tunes on the disc are first or second takes, the vocalist confirms. The result is an unflinching, in-the-moment approach to music thats less about precision and more about feeling.
Alexander unveils Mad About the Words Sunday, Feb. 11 at 1:30 p.m. at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro.