Kandace Springs, a gifted 29-year-old singer signed to the jazz bastion Blue Note, is torn between two impulses. On the one hand, she gestures towards the contemporary: Her debut EP involved the illustrious R&B production duo Pop & Oak; she released a house single this year with renowned dancefloor maven Sandy Rivera. But Springs also hopes to slip back several decades to a point when the walls between jazz, soul and pop were flimsy and allegiance to one did not preclude success in another.
So it makes sense that on her second album, Indigo, Springs recruits collaborators who move easily between worlds. One song is co-written with Mark Batson, who can produce Anthony Hamilton as easily as the Dave Matthews Band; the production on Indigo comes from Karriem Riggins, who’s as comfortable overseeing Kanye West’s “30 Hours” as he is drumming for jazz wunderkind Esperanza Spalding.
But despite the new personnel, Springs angles towards the same territory that she covered on her debut, Soul Eyes: regretful coffeehouse soul. On Soul Eyes, she tackled a pair of Shelby Lynne tunes, “Thought It Would Be Easier” and “Leavin,'” along with War’s “The World Is a Ghetto.” This time she chooses different songs from the same playbook: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” made famous by Roberta Flack, and “People Make the World Go Round,” a hit for the Stylistics. She also turns in “Piece of Me” — not an actual cover, but a disorientingly pitch-perfect dispatch from Lover’s Rock-era Sade.
These will surely garner knowing applause during a club set, but it’s more exciting to hear Springs engage with modern pop. Her version of the great Gabriel Garzon-Montano track “6 8” is an impressive exercise in maintaining forward momentum while remaining as close to inert as possible. The absurdly slow pace, the contrast between the prettiness of the piano and the lifelessness of the snare drum — it’s almost unbearable, until Springs sidles in to smooth everything over. “Breakdown,” an original co-written with Top 40 ace Jamie Hartman, is sturdy and unrestrainedly sentimental; it could fit easily on a rom-com soundtrack. Maybe that’s a place where jazz, soul and pop can still exist side by side.