It remains a not-uncommon inclination among neophyte jazz singers to favor style over substance. On her eponymous debut album, Lauren Henderson is guilty as charged. Her funkification of both “Skylark” and “Born to Be Blue,” along with her reinterpretation of “I Should Care” as a blithe swinger, accomplish nothing beyond the obfuscation of their lyrical essence. Blame it on her youth. Time and seasoning will hopefully rid Henderson of such habits, leaving in their wake the exceedingly warm and immensely promising vocalist who is evident across the balance of the album’s eight tracks.
Henderson’s deft handling of “Dindi,” in which she allows Jobim’s delicate ballad to gently unfurl, proves her ability to keep inappropriate stylistic impulses in check, as does her tender reading of “More Than You Know.” On the more challenging “I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good),” she captures Ellington’s bittersweet intent with subtle flair. She also appreciates, much like Peggy Lee, how to swing hard without swinging too hard, a valuable skill that serves her well on “Do I Love You?” and “Taking a Chance on Love.” And Henderson is dexterously multilingual, ably navigating a fiery “Veinte Años” in Spanish and a sweetly romantic “Só Tinha de Ser Com Você” in Portuguese. Why she chooses to perform “Waltz for Debby” in Swedish is anybody’s guess, but it loses none of its lilting charm in translation.