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Lainie Cooke: It’s Always You

Among jazz singers, there’s never been any shortage of late-to-the-game practitioners, but Lainie Cooke numbers among the few who can claim to have started early-very early-yet waited more than half a lifetime to make their recording debut.

The Minneapolis-born Cooke has been singing since age 3 and was fronting a big band at 14. Throughout the 1980s, she proved a consistent favorite on the L.A. club circuit. She then planned to take New York by storm, but instead ended up paying the bills by lending her sand-dusted soprano to jingles for the likes of Ford and McDonald’s, augmenting her commercial work with regular concert dates. Finally, in 2002, the wider world got the chance to discover, with the release of Here’s to Life, what a select few bi-coastal club-goers had known for decades: that Cooke is a first-rate interpreter of jazz standards both sassy and sweet.

Now, with more than another half-decade having passed, Cooke has delivered a follow-up disc, demonstrating that her unique brand of steel-lined warmth-an enticing style that suggests the musical astuteness of Sheila Jordan blended with the salty panache of Anita O’Day-has in no way diminished. Trolling the fogged passages of “Tuesdays in Chinatown,” gently peeling back the tender folds of “The Very Thought of You,” softly plumbing the elegant regret of Cole Porter’s “After You,” or suggesting a female Sinatra as she meanders through O’Day’s cheeky barroom anthem “Waiter Make Mine Blues,” Cooke consistently proves the long wait has been more than worthwhile.

Originally Published