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Barbara Morrison: Live at the Dakota

Barbara Morrison is likely the most accomplished jazz/blues veteran you’ve never heard. In a career than spans three decades, the Michigan-born, L.A.-based powerhouse has delivered seven sublime solo albums, three of which ably capture the unfettered snap, crackle, pop of her live performances while remaining unjustly obscure. This latest of her trio of live discs finds Morrison holding court in the Midwestern jazz oasis that is Minneapolis’ Dakota, flanked by the sort of nonpareil statesmen–pianist Junior Mance, saxophonist Houston Person, bassist Earl May and drummer Jackie Williams–that most singers would give their left lung for.

Rising, as always, to the occasion, Morrison comes out with both guns blazing, simultaneously suggesting the impeccable jazz instincts of Ella Fitzgerald (whose girlish speaking voice and equally age-defiant gleefulness she also echoes), the intuitive bluesiness of Etta James (whose “At Last” she handles with estimable gusto) and the down ‘n’ dirty gutsiness of Dinah Washington (most satisfyingly on the hot, saucy “They Call Me Sundown.”) But the album’s piece de resistance is borrowed from Person’s longtime musical companion, the late, great Etta Jones, whose importunate signature tune, “Don’t Go to Strangers,” comes gorgeously wrapped in six-and-a-half minutes of satin yearning, beribboned with an exquisitely misty sax solo.

Originally Published