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Antoinette Montague: Pretty Blues

Ms. Montague is probably still pinching herself. Consider the premise for her recording debut: basic trio plus a reed man. Ah, but check the talent: pianist Mulgrew Miller; a pair of Washingtons, Peter on bass, Kenny on drums; and tenor saxophonist/flutist Bill Easley. It’s a win-win situation. Jazz players love to accompany a genuine jazz singer and Antoinette is as real as they come: good range, phrasing and taste.

All three come into clear focus immediately on the first track, the blues cocktail that evolves from “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water” to “Everyday I Have the Blues.” As Mulgrew finishes his 12-bar intro, Antoinette hums around the root tone as if to announce, “I’m ready!” Is she ever! When Mulgrew sets her up for a supersonic “From This Moment On,” she confidently glides along while the monster keyboardist skillfully wears his fingers down to the knuckles. On “Teach Me Tonight,” she again shows her patience with words over a cooking tempo. She also shows how to sustain a tone forever, letting the vibrato finally emerge, never weakening the intonation. Tackling “At Last,” Antoinette never leans on Etta James’ ubiquitous reworking.

Originally Published