In This Room
An estimable follow-up to 2005’s Intrinsic, this second pairing of Chicago-based singer Typhanie Monique and guitarist Neal Alger delivers, like its predecessor, both the expected and the unexpected. Expected, and delivered: solid soul-jazz vocals from Monique that suggest both Sarah Vaughan and Minnie Riperton, top-drawer acoustic and electric licks from the dazzlingly imaginative Alger, and achingly heartfelt readings of such wide-ranging ballads as Victor Young’s “Beautiful Love,” Sting’s “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” and Annie Lennox’s “Wonderful,” coaxed along at a soulful mid-tempo. Unexpected, but utterly engaging: an electrified, scat-lined “Caravan” that soars into outer space, a supple bossa treatment of “Never Can Say Goodbye” that rescues the Gloria Gaynor anthem from its disco trappings while recalling the tender original from the Jackson Five, and a winking “Black Coffee” that, for the first time in my experience, toys with the narrator’s over-caffeinated state.
Rounding out this cunning assemblage are three originals. Two—the yearning, angular “Soul Tread” (sort of a more youthful variation on “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most”) and the emotionally ponderous “This Feeling”—are terrific. The third, “Smile” (not to be confused with the Charlie Chaplin chestnut, and the only one of the three written by Monique without Alger), with its arresting swings between bouncy ebullience and hungry longing, is arguably even better.