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December 2008

Jessica Molaskey
A Kiss to Build A Dream On
Arbors Records

A few months ago, on a late summer installment of Radio Deluxe, the delightfully eclectic program co-hosted by Jessica Molaskey and her husband John Pizzarelli, one of the selections was a rendition of “Beyond the Sea” performed by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. Molaskey’s breathless response to the track: “It goes right through my heart.”

So, feeling as passionately as she does about strings masters (and having herself married one), it’s no wonder she’s chosen for her fifth album to surround herself with, as she describes them, “various sized pieces of wood with strings attached.” And attached to those hunks of wood are four exemplary craftsmen: hubby John and father-in-law Bucky on guitar, a third Pizzarelli—brother-in-law Martin—on bass and Aaron Weinstein on violin.

The results suggest an amalgam of two previous Molaskey successes, blending the retro panache of 2002’s Pentimento with the feel-good vibe of the following year’s A Good Day. Indulging various penchants—for vintage tunes (“I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby,” “Baby Face”), for Sondheim (the playful “Everybody Loves Louis” from Sunday in the Park With George, the recent Broadway revival of which costarred Molaskey, and the dreamily dysfunctional “Isn’t He Something” from the short-lived Bounce), and for Dave Frishberg (the sanguine “Heart’s Desire”)—Molaskey again proves herself that rarest of commodities: a singing actress who can fully transport her stage skills to the recording studio, transforming each selection into a multihued mini-play.

Ever since Pentimento, vocal duets with John have remained a highlight of Molaskey’s albums, and the pair doesn’t disappoint here, joining forces for a sweet, tender “Tea for Two” and on their own “Hiding in Plain Sight” (the only track that expands beyond strings to include pianist Larry Fuller), a clever ditty that traces a round-the-world tour by a couple seeking some romantic privacy. Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney couldn’t have handled it better, or with more affectionate fun.

Originally published in December 2008
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