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Lyambiko: Out of This Mood

Germany’s Lyambiko i’s touted on the back of her new disc, Out of This Mood (Nagel-Heyer) as “the most beautiful voice in swing, Latin and soul jazz.” Either she’s quite the overachiever or that’s quite the overstatement. Actually, the truth lies somewhere in between. She has a full-bodied, luxurious voice. Her range is impressive, her timing impeccable, and she really can swing. Through no fault of her own (I’m guessing that English is her second or possibly even third language), she does, however, have difficulty bringing enough emotional breadth or depth to most English-language lyrics. Her renditions of “Some Other Time,” “Gone With the Wind,” “Can’t Get Out of This Mood,” “Our Love Is Here to Stay” and “Skylark” are all handled with admirable ability yet seem drained of any genuine feeling. Oddly, though, the purer a song’s jazz roots, the better able she seems to manipulate the English lyrics. Her “Afro Blue” is, for instance, an exquisite, richly shaded work of art, and her ramble through Adderley and Brown’s “Work Song” is equally splendid. So, too, is her celebratory interpretation of “Miss Celie’s Blues”-a feisty, energetic reading that should generate heightened respect for Quincy Jones’ underappreciated The Color Purple showpiece.

Originally Published