It is heartening to know that Nancy Marano is as much in demand as an educator as she is as a vocalist. For if her students gain even a smidgen of her skill it bodes well for the future of jazz singing. Seven years have passed since the release of her previous album. But Magic, Marano’s eighth as leader, reveals that her gorgeous, slightly dusky sound and impeccable interpretive abilities have, if anything, grown even more, well, magical.
Much of the alchemic potency here must also be attributed to the top-drawer players she surrounds herself with: pianist Mike Renzi, tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm, drummer Grady Tate, trumpeter Claudio Roditi, guitarist Jack Wilkins and bassist Steve LaSpina. Marano and Renzi are twice featured à deux, first on the haunting David Raksin/Johnny Mercer rarity “Mirror, Mirror, Mirror,” then on Duncan Lamont’s swirling, wistful “Carousel.” Tate is front-and-center as vocal duettist on a mischievous “Baby, Don’t You Quit Now,” his burlap baritone providing splendid counterpoint to her raw silk. “I Didn’t Know About You” and “He Was Too Good to Me” are blended to superb advantage, and Marano’s lively scamper through Bob Dorough and Fran Landesman’s “Nothing Like You” recalls the infectious alacrity of Jackie Cain. Marano closes with Michel Legrand’s title track, submersing herself in an edge-of-madness vortex, its turbulence skillfully propelled by the composer himself at the piano.