September 2000

Autumn Leaves: The Songs of Johnny Mercer
Groove Note Records

Singapore-born-and-raised Jacintha follows her recent collection of Ben Webster-associated ballads with another tribute, this time to lyricist Mercer. Favoring the time-stands-still tempos of Shirley Horn and echoing the honeyed tenderness of the late Brazilian vocalist Sylvia Telles, Jacintha embraces 10 Mercer standards with her deceptively fragile, accent-free, pitch-perfect voice. (Mysteriously, two-thirds of "Autumn Leaves" showcases Jacques Prevert's French lyric, and a bonus track, "Here's to Life", has nothing to do with the album's theme, though it underscores Jacintha's stylistic link with Horn.) The most adventurous performance is a three-chorus, eight and 1/2 minute "Moon River" that opens with the singer's a cappella presentation of the song, segues into pianist Kei Akagi's spare, dissonant deconstruction of the melody and ends with the duo blending its divergent approaches to the Mancini-Mercer composition. The only unsuccessful cut is "Something's Got to Give", taken at a clip much too brisk for the vocalist's comfort. Teddy Edwards' tenor sax solos complement one of the loveliest and least affected new voices in jazz.

Originally published in September 2000
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