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Jessica Molaskey: Pentimento

It’s always a bit scary when a genuinely gifted artist starts trumpeting the singing talents of his or her spouse, lover, child, cousin, niece or next-door neighbor. Far too often, it seems, affection or obligation or both heavily cloud the hornblower’s judgment, and those of us without the rose-colored glasses are left, quite literally, flat. Such, fortunately, is not the case with Jessica Molaskey. She is John Pizzarelli’s wife, which also makes her Bucky Pizzarelli’s daughter-in-law and Martin Pizzarelli’s sister-in-law. All three Pizzarellis lend moral and musical support to her delightful debut album, Pentimento (PS Classics). Like the late, great Peggy Lee, Molaskey knows how to make the most of a relatively limited range, filling each breath with sensuous charm and, every so often, adding a torchy hint of K.D. Lang twang. Inspired by her mother’s philosophical recollections of the Great Depression, she takes 15 of the era’s biggest hits and, as the album’s title suggests, strips away the nostalgic patina that has obscured their original messages of despair-fueled hope. From the cautious optimism of “Look for the Silver Lining” to the gentle playfulness of “By the Beautiful Sea” (plus the sexiest rendition of “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” you’re ever likely to hear), Molaskey does a superb job of reminding us how deceptively powerful these sepia-tinted tunes really are. In addition, she and her husband have crafted two new songs-the dreamy “Sail Away” (not to be confused with the Noel Coward gem of the same name) and the rich, biting “I Tried Too Hard for Too Long”-that fully embrace the spirit and sentiment of the vintage material. Most appealing of all, though, is a dandy vocal duel by Molaskey and mate. She sets the pace with a velvety “With Plenty of Money and You,” Pizzarelli slides in with a bouncy “We’re in the Money,” and the listener is left hoping that the pair are busily making plans for an all-duets album.

Originally Published