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Musically speaking, Jacintha Abisheganaden has been all over the map. A fairly recent jazz convert, the Singapore-born chanteuse started out as a techno-pop diva, moved to the U.S. where she formed her own band, recorded an album of Spanish standards, returned to Southeast Asia, crafted a best-selling compilation of soft-rock classics, shifted to experimental stage work, performed with the New York Philharmonic and enjoyed a long run as Grizabella in the Singapore production of Cats. Not bad for someone who, based on the cover of her latest ballad collection, Lush Life, looks to be about 24. “Album covers are pretty deceiving,” she giggles, admitting that she’s a full two decades older than my guesstimate.

Simple mathematics suggest, then, that Jacintha (she long ago abandoned that tongue-twister of a last name) was 40 when she decided to forego safer career paths to test the jazz waters. Signing with Ying Tan’s Groove Note label, she partnered in 1999 with tenor sax legend Teddy Edwards to create Here’s to Ben, a 10-track melange of songs associated with Ben Webster. “My goal,” she says, “was to strip away everything I’d done previously and [focus] solely on the songs themselves. I wanted to take a storytelling approach, acting as narrator for the album and mapping out an emotional plan as I wove the songs together.”

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