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Mercedes Hall: Pure Emotion

Any discussion of Boston-bred songstress Mercedes Hall inevitably includes the fact that she is the mother of film and TV star Anthony Michael Hall. However, what isn’t mentioned nearly as often is that she was earning her oats with TV gigs and cross-country club dates long before her offspring became a marquee name. So, don’t dare think of her as some late-blooming dilettante who’s decided to ride her son’s coattails to fame. Nor could you when you hear her arresting sound-an espresso-rich blend of Dinah Washington sass, Lena Horne sophistication and Cleo Laine musicality, a voice made all the more disconcerting when you realize it’s pouring forth from a diminutive redhead with sparkling blue eyes.

Shaping the majority of these 14 tracks in tandem with pianist and arranger Glafkos Kontemeniotis (a name I’d never previously heard but, after this, want to hear a whole lot more from), Hall knows how to work a standard like nobody’s business. Just listen to the sizzle of her “Ghost of a Chance,” the percolated heat of her “Lover Man,” the wicked wizardry of her “That Old Black Magic” and the jungle fever of her “What Is This Thing Called Love?” Then thank her for the brilliant idea of getting Arturo O’Farrill to ignite the flame, as arranger and pianist, beneath the shimmering title track. Oh, and bless her for unearthing the Harold Adamson-Leo McCarey-Harry Warren rarity “Satan Never Sleeps” and reminding us just how devilishly intoxicating it is.

Originally Published