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Louise Rogers: Come Ready and See Me

Hers is a pure, incandescent voice, free of affectation or obvious influence. Rather like a moonbeam transported from a distant solar system, it glows with an easy, comfortable assuredness that simultaneously seems old as time, new as dawn and promising as tomorrow. Louise Rogers could, if she chose to, use her crystalline instrument to tremendous advantage as a singer of standards or show tunes or pop hits. Indeed, here on her latest album, she injects Hammerstein and Kern’s “The Song Is You” with a joyful effervescence that suggests the ebullient bounce of A.A. Milne’s Tigger and rescues Leo Robin’s “Louise” from its 1930s Maurice Chevalier mothballs.

But, working with an assortment of premium sideman (principal among them: her husband, ace bassist Rick Strong), Rogers proves as gifted at choosing intriguing material as at judiciously interpreting it. Consider, for example, the jolting juxtaposition of the album’s opener and closer: the fervent “Be My Baby” (based on a poem by Nikki Giovanni), a cougar-esque paean to unleashed passion, offset by the plaintive majesty of the traditional Celtic piece “Lass from the Low Countree.” In between, Rogers remains brilliantly unpredictable as she wades into a shimmering reinterpretation of Mike Mainieri’s “Islands” (teaming with Regina McBride to add flowing lyrics to the Steps Ahead gem), constructs a bracing lesson in metaphysics in her reworking of Jerry Bergonzi’s “Conjunction,” provides Richard Hundley’s yearning lyric the breathing space it needs on her stark interpretation of the title tune, and allows saxophonist Gottfried Stogers to lead her on a dreamy wander through his “Poetic Song.”

Originally Published