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Jane Blackstone: Natural Habitat/NYC

New Yorker Jane Blackstone strikes me as an accomplished technician who could, on occasion, use a little more heart. Blessed with superb control and a boisterous musicality that’s reminiscent of Jackie and Roy, Blackstone handles various tempos with ease on Natural Habitat NYC (Motief), and she’s comfortable with structural complexity. She seems, however, to vacillate between solid self-assurance and emotional vacuity. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s delicate paean to clandestine love, “We Kiss in a Shadow,” is delivered with whispery respect, but fails to ignite the song’s simmering sinfulness. Both “Without a Song” and Bob Albanese’s lovely “The Rainbow I See in Your Eyes” are executed with laudable precision but little passion. Conversely, Blackstone’s “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” is warm and lilting with an effectively menacing undertone, and “The Human Touch,” a tender examination of our fading humanity, serves as a nice companion piece to Blackstone’s own, ebullient “Room for Everybody.” The melody, which sounds as if it was lifted from the Fame soundtrack, isn’t terribly original, but Blackstone’s breezy lyric suggests the cunning optimism of the young Stephen Sondheim.

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