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Lauren Hooker: Right Where I Belong

Plenty of jazz artists grow up with Bill Evans, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck and their iconic brethren, but Lauren Hooker is one of the few who can claim to have done so literally. She is the daughter of celebrated musician and conductor Louis Hooker. She studied music education at Fairleigh Dickinson, where her dad headed the Fine Arts Department. Her post-grad work included jazz theory with Kenny Barron at Rutgers and jazz voice with Sheila Jordan at the Manhattan School of Music. Nearly two decades ago, she set lyrics to Mal Waldron’s “Seagulls of Kristiansund” and recorded them with Waldron himself.

Since then, she created the multimedia installation “Jazz Expressions,” appeared on a spectrum of arts-related TV shows and guested on more than a dozen other performers’ albums. Now, after what must surely rank as one of the longest and most intense preparatory periods in jazz history, Hooker has finally made her own album-length debut. Hooker’s vocal stylizing, with its clarion tone, crisp phrasing (reminiscent of both Nancy Wilson and Shirley Horn) and blues-accented undercurrent, is undeniably impressive, and her covers of “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” “Ill Wind” and “Creole Love Call” are certainly imaginative.

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