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Jackie Allen: The Men in My Life

The idea of a female singer shaping a tuneful tribute to her favorite men is hardly new. Julie London sang the praises of Nat Cole, Bing Crosby, Mel Torme and various others some four and a half decades ago on the satin-lined Your Number Please, and Peggy Lee followed a few months later with her snappy I Like Men! Now Jackie Allen joins their adoring ranks with The Men In My Life (A440). Allen, whose candlelit coziness masks remarkable vocal power and dexterity, suggests Jeri Southern with a soupcon of Cyndi Lauper and a dollop of Eartha Kitt. Nodding to Paul Simon with a lilting “Still Crazy After All These Years,” she segues into a buttery “Come Fly With Me,” reworked as a sparkling samba, that swaps Sinatra’s finger-poppin’ swagger for winking suggestiveness. Antonio Carlos Jobim is saluted with a velvety “Dindi,” James Taylor’s “Mexico” wallows in sun-drenched laziness, Sting’s “Tea in the Sahara” escalates from prayerlike solemnity to scorching fervor and Billy Eckstine is honored with a haunted interpretation of “Fools Rush In” that adds a bracing chill to Johnny Mercer’s boldly optimistic lyric. Allen has tremendous fun with the ebullient “You Could Be Fred,” a self-penned paean to both Astaire and Flintstone. Perhaps fittingly, though, it takes a guy to bring out Allen’s best. To pay proper homage to the inimitable Mark Murphy, Allen teams with Kurt Elling for three-and-a-half minutes of blended genius on David Raskin’s brooding “The Bad and the Beautiful.” There’s only one word to describe it: wow.

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