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12/16/13

Stacey Kent
The Changing Lights
Warner Brothers

Six years ago, Stacey Kent strayed from the all-standards path with the multifarious Breakfast on the Morning Tram, taking her artistry to an exciting new level. Now, following detours for the all-French Raconte-moi and her first live album, Kent returns to the blueprint: a bit of pop, several Brazilian selections, a soupçon of French and clever originals composed by her husband, saxophonist Jim Tomlinson, with lyrics by novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. Kent and Tomlinson (as producer and principal arranger) have clearly hit on a winning formula.

Extending from the sweet simmer of “This Happy Madness” to the chill dismissal of “How Insensitive,” the half-dozen Brazilian tracks are exquisite. New among them, written by Tomlinson and Portuguese poet Antonio Ladeira, are “Mais Uma Vez,” a twinkling, ruminative gem, and the silken “A Tarde,” which finds Kent in the sole company of legendary guitarist Roberto Menescal.

Ishiguro is to Kent what Cahn and Van Heusen were to Sinatra: a crafter of musical playlets that fit the singer like bespoke tailoring. His “Waiter, Oh Waiter” is a delightful trifle about a restaurant patron struggling with the arrogance of haute cuisine. The bittersweet “The Summer We Crossed Europe in the Rain” continues his penchant for travel themes, tracing a wistful attempt to renew faded romance. But his tour de force is the title track, a beautifully constructed parable about youthful ideals, the ardor they ignite and the inevitable concessions, rationalizations and regrets that follow.

Originally published in November 2013
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