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Jo Thompson: Slender, Tender and Tall

S’awful nice to welcome Jo Thompson back to the flock. One of the many shapely cabaret singers that proliferated during the postswing era, Thompson all but departed the music scene around the same time the Beatles invaded America and steered clear of the limelight for three decades. Then, a dozen or so years ago, she made a triumphant comeback at a Carnegie Hall benefit concert sponsored by Lionel Hampton before settling into Manhattan’s club and cabaret circuit. Now, with the release of Slender, Tender and Tall (Panda Digital), the 70-something grandmother proves she’s still, as Cole Porter so succinctly put it, got that thing. Blending the coy playfulness of Julie Wilson with the larger-than-life vivacity of Sophie Tucker, Thompson struts and sways her way through ten sprightly standards. At her best with rollicking numbers like “Shiney Stockings” and “Walking My Baby,” (the bratty-cool “Peel Me a Grape” can’t, by comparison, tolerate Thompson’s fiery exuberance), she recalls the British music-hall merriment of Tessie O’Shea one minute and echoes the salty prattle of Mae West the next. Relentlessly energetic, it’s the kind of album that leaves you slightly exhausted, though satisfyingly so.

Originally Published