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Banu Gibson and Bucky Pizzarelli: Steppin’ Out

She’s the fiery redhead with the Maureen O’Hara vivacity. He’s the guitar virtuoso with the gentlemanly grace. Together they should make beautiful music. Trouble is, their respective musical strengths are, like spiced rum and single malt scotch, too distinctly dichotomous to blend satisfyingly. Gibson, whose sparkling robustness is reminiscent of the perennially underappreciated Pearl Bailey, is expert at infusing up-tempo trifles and saucy ditties with fitting exuberance. Here, she handles “I Don’t Know Enough About You,” “Steppin’ Out With My Baby” and “This Year’s Kisses” with impressive agility and injects “A Woman’s Prerogative” and “Put the Blame on Mame” with precisely the right amount of playful sizzle.

Ballads, however, prove problematic. On such fragile gems as “Remember” and “September Song,” Gibson swaps introspection for barely subdued bounciness. The effect is unsettling, particularly on her oddly gleeful rendition of the achingly plaintive “There’s a Lull in My Life.”

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