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Mary Foster Conklin: Blues for Breakfast

One of the healthiest infusions in jazz in recent years has been cabaret. Among its latest crossovers is a delightfully dramatic young singer whose third album amounts to a one-woman archeological survey subtitled “Remembering Matt Dennis”: 14 tunes, some familiar, many neglected, a few fossils. Obviously Mary Foster Conklin digs what she digs: Her jazz chops are best displayed on “Show Me the Way to Get Out of This World,” when she “duplicates” Joel Frahm’s clever tenor line. It’s not quite scat; she imitates his phrasing perfectly, bending tones, falling, etc.

She joins in the jam session on “Will You Still Be Mine?” by merely singing the melody-in other words, her jazz phrasing is intact. As for intonation, she impresses by singing most of the first chorus of “Let’s Get Away From It All” with just bass and no net, but then bassist Sean Smith is an expert on intonation. As for ballads, which can separate jazzers from pretenders, there’s “Angel Eyes”: She begins the tricky intro a cappella, hits a low D-flat at the end of the second eight (where it usually goes up), and ends that familiar tag locked on a seventh, as her voice vanishes.

Outstanding accompaniment by pianist John di Martino, who did all the arrangements.

Originally Published