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Jacqui Naylor: Live East/West

It’s a cute initiative: Take a top-drawer vocalist like Joni Mitchell/Carole King hybrid Jacqui Naylor, capture her live in first-rate venues in New York (at Birdland, combing dates from November 2003 and September 2004) and California (at Yoshi’s in Oakland, from December ’03) and serve them up together as a bicoastal double-disc set. What you get is two entirely different, 12-song playlists-though both feature King-penned tunes: the decidedly East Coast, Brill Building-era pop hit “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” from the Birdland sessions and the more California-esque “So Far Away” from Yoshi’s.

What you also get are some delightful consistencies. Chief among them are Naylor’s impeccable taste in standards (“But Not for Me” and “No Moon at All” provide standout examples), her writing skills (you gotta love her male-ego-deflating “Cheese Puff Daddy” and her delectably tart “Don’t Let the Bastard Get You Down”) and the interpretive magic she brings to the likes of a Zeppelin-esque “Black Coffee” (she calls it “acoustic smashing”) and a funkified “My Funny Valentine.”

Topping the list, though, is the constant presence of arranger/cowriter/pianist Art Khu, the best friend a solid-voiced, cusp-of-breaking-big artist like Naylor could ever hope to have.

Originally Published