Nnenna Freelon – Time Traveler


Title: Time Traveler
Artist: Nnenna Freelon
Label: Origin
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: May 21, 2021


Like many over the past couple of years, jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon has been confronting grief. The singer’s beloved husband and partner of 40 years, Philip Freelon, passed after a long battle with ALS, shortly before the pandemic caused millions of untimely deaths and left bereaved families across the globe in mourning. Freelon’s new album, Time Traveler, was created through this lens of suffering, grief and loss. Recorded both before and after her husband’s transition, the singer hopes the album “offers compassion and hope for the places in life that feel hard” and calls the project “my soul’s gift to myself, my husband and the universe.”

Freelon reimagines a number of standards and soul classics, with each track representing a commentary on space and time, including cherished memories of the past, the demands of life in the present, and thoughts on the afterlife. Opening with the spiritually uplifting “I Say a Little Prayer,” she moves on to a Marvin Gaye Medley, fusing together a three-part love story that concludes with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” which she says is “her truth that [her husband] awaits on the other side.” Other highlights include “Betcha By Golly Wow” featuring Kirk Whalum on tenor sax and flute, a poignant “Moon River” representing the journey of life and “Come Rain or Come Shine,” a reminder that love will transcend all barriers. Closing with her original title track, “Time Traveler,” Freelon explores “what is possible when you believe that death is not the end of love but an arrival at a new destination.”

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss