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Lea Delaria: Live Smoke Sessions

Fearlessness. It is the priceless asset that has shaped Lea Delaria’s quarter-century of success as a musical theatre headliner, screen actress, stand-up comic and writer. It is also the quality that, over the course of eight years and two studio albums (plus a “greatest hits” release that blended the two and added a trio of unreleased tracks, including a poignant “Some Other Time”), has pushed her to the front ranks of contemporary American jazz singers.

As proven previously but perhaps best demonstrated throughout this, her first live album, there’s nothing Delaria won’t try-and there’s seemingly nothing she can’t do exceptionally well. Consider her opening number, an effervescent “Down With Love” that progresses from Dinah Shore dewiness to Carmen McRae grittiness; or her down ‘n’ dirty “Why Don’t You Do Right,” which gets directly to the lyric’s gold-digging heart; or her ethereal “Love for Sale” that drifts through fog banks of romantic delusion. She can echo the worldly vulnerability of Billie Holiday (just listen to the fragility of her “Come Rain or Come Shine” and the sage ache of her “You Don’t Know What Love Is”) and, on a boppin’ “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” exhibits Ella-worthy scat skills.

An hour’s worth of Delaria is enough to satisfy any discerning listener; but to sweeten this particular pot of honey she invites her equally exemplary British pal, Ian Shaw, onstage for two numbers: a Lambert, Hendricks and Ross-esque journey into the psychological torture of quitting smoking on “Puff” and a jivin’ romp through Lester Young’s “Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid.”

Originally Published