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Irene Kral: Just for Now

It’s been more than a quarter century since one of the all-time great jazz voices was silenced far too abruptly when Irene Kral succumbed to breast cancer at age 46. Despite a career that spanned three decades, she left behind a disappointingly brief discography. Fortunately, Kral aficionados can now expand the limited CD shelf space allocated to such works of art as 1958’s The Band and I, 1963’s Better Than Anything, 1974’s incomparable Where Is Love?, the pricey Japanese reissue of 1976’s Live in Tokyo and 1977’s Kral Space (all still available and worth digging for). Just for Now (Jazzed Media), capturing Kral at her peek, features 13 never-before-released tracks recorded live in San Diego in June 1975.

With a voice as pure and exquisite as Lalique crystal, Kral opens with “Experiment,” Cole Porter’s delicious direct-ive to get the most out of life, segues into Oliver!’s tremulously fragile “Where Is Love?” and bounces back with Dave Frishberg’s wonderfully caustic “Wheelers and Dealers” before left-turning into Tommy Wolf’s playfully petulant “Nice Weather for Ducks.” She goes to town on Benny Carter’s “Rock Me to Sleep,” gets cuddly on Andre and Dory Previn’s title track, lends keen self-awareness to “Here’s That Rainy Day,” dives deep into “The Meaning of the Blues” and finishes off with Blossom Dearie’s sunshiny “I Like You, You’re Nice” because, explains the taciturn Kral to the assembled cognoscenti, “It’s so cute.” Apart from Irene’s big brother Roy (and his wonderful wife, Jackie Cain), it’s hard to imagine a vocal magician as consistently underappreciated as Kral. With any luck, Just for Now will bring a few thousand more converts into the flock.

Originally Published