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Pamela Luss: Sweet and Saxy

The beauty of Pamela Luss’ voice is that it is not flawlessly beautiful. There’s the hint of huskiness, a variable cloudiness, a passing shadow that escalates her sound from merely pretty to intoxicating. Over the course of four albums, Luss’ confidence has steadily increased as, understandably, her emotional range has. Whether shimmying through the relaxed optimism of “Nice ‘n’ Easy,” basking in the fireside warmth of “Maybe You’ll Be There,” or scouring the self-indulgent ache of Carole King’s “It’s Too Late,” Luss’ aim is bulls-eye accurate.

For the third time since 2006, she has wisely chosen to record alongside saxophonist Houston Person. Theirs is now an exalted partnership, meshing like the jeweled movement of a Patek Philippe. Person ups the ante by adding drummer Willie Jones III, bassist Ray Drummond and pianist/arranger John di Martino to the mix, with guitarist James Chirillo guesting on four tracks and providing solo accompaniment on “It’s Too Late.” Another, less overt participant lurks in the shadows. It is Luss’ husband, journalist, critic and vocal-jazz authority Will Friedwald. His discerning fingerprints seem evident on everything from the song selection-who else would think to unearth “Canadian Sunset” and make it glow anew?-to the perspicacity of certain interpretations, including an upbeat “Why Was I Born?” that defies all the near-suicidal readings that have preceded it.

Originally Published