It’s not easy to pigeonhole Anjani Thomas. Her major label debut (she made a few recordings in her native Hawaii) is closer to folk than jazz. That could be attributed to the fact that her new release represents a collaboration with her mentor, Leonard Cohen: 10 of his cerebral poems to which Anjani (she seldom uses Thomas) puts her transparent melodies. She is a very soothing, versatile singer, doubling on keyboards and guitar.
Anjani studied briefly at Berklee College of Music, and she’s been compared with Tom Waits (not that he’s a contralto). But it should be clear that Anjani is more folk than jazz. Predictably, the album is a laid-back mixture of beautiful melodies, intelligent harmonies and eloquent lyrics. “Half the Perfect World” conjures up a Jobim flavor—think of Astrud Gilberto singing. There’s even a dollop of mild scat on the fadeout of “No One After You.” If your pleasure is country waltz, try “Never Got to Love You,” “The Mist” and “Thanks for the Dance,” the last of which features background clarinet noodling courtesy of producer John Lissauer, who also sprinkles in a few baritone sax licks on the end of the haunting title tune.