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Khani Cole: Khani Cole

Arizona-based vocalist Khani Cole’s soulful alto reveals uncommon emotion and strength on a solid self-titled release (Farenheit 43:15) which should appeal to fans of the Anita Baker variety of finely crafted pop-jazz. Cole breezes through lighter-than-air, synthy tunes like “Everyday” and the sprightly gospel “Sweet Inspiration,” but her strength clearly lies in the haunted, darker pieces. Cole wrings emotion from long phrases and mournful lyrics, as on “Piece of My Soul” (“now that you’re gone, my heart is crying”) and its even darker cousin, “Soul Reprise.” She gives a big-voiced, soulful hug to the classic “If I Were Your Woman” (marred only by a slappy drum program), mingling hope and sadness. However, the most startling track here, worth the price of admission on its own, is a moody, lovely chamber music arrangement of the Linda Ronstadt (Karla Bonoff-penned) chestnut, “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me.” The string section complements Cole’s voice perfectly, revealing nuances in the lyrics and phrases. Not all of Cole’s song choices are as inspired, but pummeling songstresses (like, say, Celine Dion) could certainly take a lesson in subtlety here.

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