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October 2005

Renee Fleming
Haunted Heart
Decca Records

Until now, it has remained a rather well-kept secret that Renee Fleming numbers within that extremely tiny coterie able to claim valid dual citizenship, in classical and jazz. If, however, you've read Fleming's slim but illuminating memoir, The Inner Voice, you know she worked her way through college fronting a jazz band and proved impressive enough to earn a touring invitation from Illinois Jacquet. Obviously, Fleming opted to let her music career soar in a different direction.

Now, she has briefly abandoned her classical repertoire-though Mahler's "Liebst du um Schonheit" and a slice of Wozzeck, cleverly blended with Johnny Mercer's "Midnight Sun," still figure among Haunted Heart's 14 tracks-for an eclectic spin through various of her favorite standards and pop hits. Wisely, she does so in the company of two exemplary accompanists, pianist Fred Hersch and guitarist Bill Frisell. The results are as stylistically diverse as they are uniformly gorgeous. Listening to Fleming move from the chilled mistiness of the title track and frigid discontent of Joni Mitchell's "River" to the coquettishness of "When Did You Leave Heaven?" and reflective warmth of the Beatles' "In My Life" is to recognize that her genius is beyond category.

Originally published in October 2005
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