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May 2009

Lisa Sokolov
A Quiet Thing
Laughing Horse

Yes, the album takes its name from its closing track, a rose petal-soft ballad written by Kander and Ebb for Flora, the Red Menace. But is the title also intended teasingly? It’s difficult to equate vocalist and pianist Lisa Sokolov with “quiet”: stealthy, restive, forceful and fearless, definitely, but rarely quiet. Even when Sokolov explores the tender folds of “You Go to My Head,” stretching each phrase to languid extreme, an urgent restlessness roils beneath her intense longing.

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Lisa Sokolov

With her cat-scratch voice, her skill at phrasing with much the same unfettered, gritty gutsiness as Billie Holiday and her ability to shape a stylistic pastiche that contains elements of Blossom Dearie’s verve, Nancy Wilson’s silkiness and Sheila Jordan’s ingenuity, Sokolov adds up to a startling fresh original who is the antithesis of tranquility.

Actually, says Sokolov, the album’s solidifying theme is that all 12 songs share a “quiet soul.” And indeed they do, extending from the lively wordplay of her own “Dream Haiku” and joyful satisfaction of Ashford and Simpson’s “You’re All I Need to Get By” to the stultifying desperation of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” and weary ache of “Ol’ Man River,” which cleverly drifts sideways into a tribute to Laura Nyro, Nina Simone and other Sokolov heroes.

Originally published in May 2009
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