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LM Pagano: Azalea

California cabaret/jazz artist and Jessica Lange doppelganger LM Pagano (the LM stands for Lisa Marie), a sort of spicier Stacey Kent, evinces a pouty insouciance worthy of both Ann-Margret and Peggy Lee. Like Ann-Margret, she augments a somewhat limited range with plenty of purring chutzpah. Pagano fills Azalea, her sprightly debut for L.A.’s Bop City, with thoughtful choices like Bob Dorough’s pensive “Love Came on Stealthy Fingers,” Duke Ellington’s tender title track and the richly brocaded “Touch Her Soft Lips and Part,” lifted from classical composer SirWilliam Walton’s score for the 1944 film version of Henry V starring Laurence Olivier. Her “It’s Love” echoes the breathy enthusiasm of Blossom Dearie and her saucy reading of the Cy Coleman-Carolyn Leigh gem “When In Rome” sits nicely between the sophisticated ennui of Tony Bennett’s and the cosmopolitan esprit of Peggy Lee’s. Best, though, is a hepped-up arrangement of “Don’t Explain” that, at first blush, seems so wrong yet, bouncing with barely contained yearning, works incredibly well.

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