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Jessica Molaskey: A Good Day

John Pizzarelli and wife Jessica Molaskey share a unique gift for capturing the quintessence of bygone musical eras without ever sounding creaky or contrived. For A Good Day (PS Classics), her latest foray intro retro-jazz, Molaskey was, we’re told, “inspired by Peggy Lee and the music of the 1950s.” The album is, however, less a Lee tribute than a good old-fashioned wake-a lively jazz party that, rather than try to replicate Peggy’s unique purr, chooses to celebrate her musical joie de vivre and dazzling dexterity. Any party depends, of course, on the quality of its guests, and Molaskey places herself in mighty fine company. As a member-by-marriage of the “first family of cool,” she’s able to draw on the talents of the extended Pizzarelli clan, including John, papa Bucky (one of Peggy’s favorite sidemen) and long-standing pals Ken Peplowski, Andy Fusco and John’s inimitably nimble pianist Ray Kennedy. All are used to full advantage. Avoiding the obvious selections-“Lover,” “Fever, “Is That All There Is?”-Molaskey includes only three bona fide Lee tracks among her fourteen selections. “Everything Is Moving Too Fast,” “It’s a Good Day” and “I Don’t Know Enough About You,” all composed by Lee and first husband Dave Barbour, skillfully capture the honey-dipped kittenishness of the late ’40s, pre-Decca Peggy. Elsewhere, Molaskey opts for tunes like Gypsy’s “Small World” that are adroitly evocative of the slightly older Lee’s dewy allure. Rounding out the album are no fewer than five Pizzarelli-Molaskey originals. Two of them, the Matt Dennis-y “How Come You Ain’t Got Me?” and the bubbly “I Wouldn’t Trade You,” pay frolicsome homage to the list songs John loves so dearly. “Adam and Eve” provides a sprightly salute to history’s most notorious couples, “A Lifetime or Two” is a buoyantly mellow celebration of enduring love and the somber “The Girl With His Smile and My Eyes” tells a tearful tale of loss and heartache that echoes the bleak despair of Lee’s “Don’t Smoke In Bed.” If Peggy was still alive and swinging, it’s a sure bet she’d heartily embrace all five.

Originally Published