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Lisa Lauren: It Is What It Is

I can’t comprehend why one of the big labels hasn’t yet snapped up Chicagoan Lisa Lauren. No offense to Planet Jazz, for whom she just delivered her third disc, It Is What It Is, but Lauren is a first-rate slugger who should long ago have been called up to the majors. As folk-jazz vocalists go, she’s as impressive as Norah Jones (whom she sounds like a sandier version of). As a songwriter she’s even better than the venerable Jones. Of the four originals included here, I was particularly charmed by the narrative cunning of “Passing Fancy,” a sweetly predatory salute to Lauren’s romantic self-empowerment, and “Life Is Good,” a roadworthy nod to “riding high with low expectations.” Additionally, she contributes the dreamily self-deceptive “Pull of the Moon” and its flipside “Dreamer in Disguise,” a paean to too-cautious self-limitation. Rounding out the album’s 11 tracks are appropriately lovely covers of Rodgers and Hart’s “Where or When” and Ben Pollack’s “Daddy’s Lullaby” as well as a wistfully reflective interpretation of “Here Comes the Rain Again” that effectively plumbs the double-edged dreaminess of the Annie Lennox/Dave Stewart hit. Lauren’s recording history suggests that no album would be complete without a dip into the Beatles’ catalog. Here there are four, including “The Word” (with Lauren’s pal David Sanborn, who has guested on both of her previous albums, providing gorgeous accompaniment on alto sax), the yin-yang of “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “I’m Looking Through You” and, most interesting, a nonvocal treatment of “Eleanor Rigby” that provides a perfect showcase for Lauren’s instinctive wisdom as a pianist.

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