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Lenora Zenzalai Helm: Spirit Child

Recording debuts can be tough stuff with many artists trying to put their many sides on display. Lenora Zenzalai Helm, a vocalist of talent, opens her first album with an airily affected original “Keep Taking Me Higher” that’s got a full compliment of musicians plus percussion and background singers. The disc ends with the vocalist spending much of “Summertime” alone. In between there are duos with pianist Donald Brown on “More Than You Know” and bassist Ron Carter on “Twisted.” She is most successful on standards, particularly when teamed with soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman, as heard when she beautifully hums Elllington’s “Single Petal of a Rose.” Helm’s sometimes forced vocals are more relaxed on “‘Round Midnight,” swinging along with saxophonist Branford Marsalis.

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