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12/20/13

Abigail Riccards
Every Little Star
Abigail Riccards

Abigail Riccards has, across a decade-long career, mastered the increasingly endangered art of making less more. Her tone is crystalline, her phrasing crisp and her style lissome, its seeming effortlessness masking sharp interpretive skills. Think Doris Day with Anita O’Day’s jazz smarts.

Navigating 11 standards plus Chicago trumpeter/vocalist Jeannie Tanner’s “Endless Joy,” Riccards surrounds herself with players—guitarist Peter Bernstein, pianist Michael Kanan, bassist Neal Miner, drummer Eliot Zigmund—who embrace and enhance her nimble subtlety. She is a fine midtempo swinger, serving up sparkling renditions of “I’ve Told Every Little Star,” “If I Had You” and “Waltz for Debby,” and a loose, scat-peppered “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” And she can turn up the heat when appropriate, as on a blistering “Bye Bye Blackbird.” But it is as a balladeer that she shines brightest, perfectly capturing the cozy satisfaction of “I Didn’t Know About You” and the budding joy of “Smile,” and enfolding the typically ebullient “Singin’ in the Rain” in soft contentment.

For her debut album released in 2007, Riccards enlisted Dena DeRose as her producer. This time, she’s recruited Jane Monheit. They share one track, swapping choruses and ultimately twining on Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game.” The juxtaposition is interesting, with Monheit’s more mannered approach played against Riccards’ unadorned purity.

Originally published in November 2013
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