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Lorraine Feather: New York City Drag

The paths of American show business are littered with stars’ less-talented offspring. For every Liza Minnelli there are a dozen Lorna Lufts. Fortunately, singer-lyricist Lorraine Feather lives up to the highest of familial expectations. Doubly blessed with the vocal dexterity of her band-singer mother, Jane, and the unerring jazz sensibility of her heavily hyphenated father (critic-composer-arranger-producer-pianist), Leonard, she emerges as a true original. Her latest project, New York City Drag (Rhombus 7020; 41:55), is an ambitious salute to Fats Waller that required her to first pen, then perform, lyrics molded to a dozen of Waller’s classic compositions. His “The Minor Drag” is, for instance, reshaped as “You’re Outa Here,” a modern paean to a tiresome lover’s overstayed welcome. “Blue Black Bottom” becomes “Too Good Lookin’,” a brilliant skewering of fashion victims who “don’t get into makeup for less than 20 G.” On most tracks, the ever-dependable Dick Hyman accompanies Feather on piano, but on the closing number modern trickery enables her to blend with Fats himself as the master plays “Smashing Thirds.” As a singer, Feather suggests the percolated verve of Annie Ross. Her real gift, though, is as a wordsmith who can meld the downtown hipness of Dave Frishberg with the uptown sophistication of Cole Porter, then add a delicious touch of Jimmy Van Heusen’s jaded romanticism.

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