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Jessica Molaskey: Make Believe

Let’s clarify one thing at the outset: Jessica Molaskey is not a jazz singer. Some people judge singers by the sidemen they work with, but that’s not enough. In her third release for PS, she’s surrounded by some great swingers: her husband, guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli, and his famous father, Bucky, as well as pianist Larry Goldings, trombonist John Mosca, tenor saxophonist Harry Allen and arrangers Don Sebesky and John Clayton. They give her a tremendous lift-the way Nelson Riddle seemed to make strings swing-but in the final analysis, without the natural ability to phrase in the key of jazz, she falls into a different category. Hal Prince, a name synonymous with Broadway, neatly defined that category: “My favorite singers are actors with voices. Jessica Molaskey is one of those….” Her dramatic chops come through on every track. That stage persona, supported by a valid jazz foundation, makes for a very enjoyable album.

Some highlights include “All That Jazz,” where she bends the right tones and captures the flavor of the Flapper Age, with considerable help from Clayton’s chart; two clever blendings by Sebesky, “Hey, Look Me Over/Big Spender” and “Cloudburst/Getting Married Today,” in which Molaskey and her hubby share the rapid-fire vocal tour de force thanks to Jon Hendricks’ special lyrics. Showing excellent taste, Molaskey ends the album with a lovely, one-chorus rendition of Meredith Wilson’s “Goodnight My Someone,” accompanied by Goldings only.

Originally Published