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September 2006

Various Artists
Jazz Vocalists Hear & Now
Concord Records

This specially priced, two-CD set boasts three dozen jazz greats from yesterday to tomorrow—from Ray Charles, Al Jarreau and Abbey Lincoln to Michael Bublé, Nnenna Freelon and Madeleine Peyroux. Plus many whose names invariably generate the usual crossover controversy: Diana Krall, Joni Mitchell and Norah Jones (though their contributions here are enough to erase any doubts about their validity). One of the album’s highlights belongs to newcomer Peyroux, whose jazz credentials cannot be questioned. Ironically, her rendition of “Careless Love” demonstrates how Lady Day might have sounded had she taken on country music. Carla Cook gives an imaginative reading of “The More I See You,” fearlessly exploring that old standard. Nancy Wilson explores a blues-tinged version of “An Older Man Is Like an Elegant Wine.” Similarly, “I’m Always Drunk in San Francisco” proves the comedic highlight thanks to Kitty Margolis. The backing of Ray Charles by Pancho Sanchez in “Mary Ann” leads to a predictable “soul meets salsa.” The low point, surprisingly, comes from Shirley Horn, thanks to the boringly hypnotic pedal point she provides under “Everything Must Change.” No sampler here. 36 full-length tracks (around two hours, 20 minutes) distributed by Concord for the Jazz Alliance International, whose mission is to spread the jazz gospel. To which we add, “Amen.”

Originally published in September 2006
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