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Debra Holly: I’ll Never Forget You

I was immediately impressed by New Yorker Debra Holly’s debut CD, I’ll Never Forget You (Metropolitan), though I took a couple more spins to pinpoint its specific appeal. Holly’s warm soprano is smooth and clear, her enunciation is superlative and she proves herself equally at ease with a swinging big band or intimate quartet. What sets her apart from others of her technically proficient ilk, however, is an uncanny ability to replicate Lena Horne’s phrasing. It’s eerie, but surprisingly enticing, especially on easy-flowing numbers like “Night in Tunisia,” “Waters of March” and “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.” (On ballads she tends to accent Horne’s spirited sophistication with Streisand’s pop sensibility-an appreciably potent combination.) Perhaps inspired by Peggy Lee’s 1965 recording of the infectious, if insipid, Bewitched TV theme, Holly strays from the respectable safety of Rodgers, Hammerstein, Mercer, Ellington and Weill to include “The Addams Family” among her 12 selections. It’s a cute idea, spoiled by her failure to appreciate that much of the theme’s silly appeal is derived from rhyming “scream” (as in “scree-um”) with “see ’em” and “museum.” Still, as throwaway novelty numbers go, it’s an interesting attention-getter.

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