On the surface, these 10 tracks, recorded live at Yoshi's earlier this year, show the effervescent, Nancy Wilson-esque Clairdee in sassy, solidly assured, crowd-pleasing form. But dig a little deeper and you'll discover a whole lot of interpretative brilliance going on. Working in imaginative sync with coarranger Ken French (also her music director and keyboardist), Clairdee conjures up all sorts of bright magic, including a deeply soulful "Summertime" in the spirit of Al Green and an "All the Way" stripped of the intense longing that underscored Frank Sinatra's signature version and reinterpreted as a coolly upbeat samba.
The piece de resistance is a vibrantly enervated, six-minute voyage through "Alright, Okay, You Win," reinvented as a combined salute to Count Basie, Joe Williams, Les McCann and Eddie Harris. It pays homage to Basie and Williams' appearance at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival and to McCann and Harris' at the 1969 Montreux Jazz Festival, while employing Harris' "Cold Duck Time" as a foundation. Clever as her (and French's) innovations are, Clairdee also knows when to leave well enough alone, as she does on "Do Something," replicating Betty Carter's classic treatment note for note and nuance by nuance.