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Rebecca Kilgore & Dave Frishberg: Why Fight the Feeling? Songs by Frank Loesser

Among discerning interpreters of jazz standards, Rebecca Kilgore is in the same exalted league as Dianne Reeves and Diana Krall. So why is the gal from Portland nowhere near as celebrated? Simply because the gal from Portland rarely ventures beyond Portland, happy to record, perform and generally shape a fine existence for herself in her own backyard. Fortunately, her townsfolk include the inimitable Dave Frishberg, inarguably one of the all-time greatest American tunesmiths and jazz vocalists (actually jazz raconteur better fits Frishberg’s laidback, Hoagy Carmichael-meets-Will Rogers style) and also an exceptionally fine jazz pianist.

This whip-smart salute to Frank Loesser (another of the all-time great American songwriters who, like Frishberg, doesn’t always get the colossal appreciation he deserves) marks Kilgore and Frishberg’s fourth collaboration. He tickles the ivories, expectedly demonstrating an understated perspicacity that both enhances and respects the immensity of Kilgore’s vocal craftsmanship. With a style that seems plucked straight off a 1940s bandstand and a sound that simultaneously suggests the cashmere warmth of Doris Day and the starchier sass of Rosemary Clooney, Kilgore is ideally suited to the cunning blend of Cole Porter sophistication and warm Irving Berlin familiarity that defines the Loesser songbook. Loesser’s two massive Broadway hits-Guys & Dolls (quite possibly the greatest Broadway score ever written) and the near equally sublime How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying-are respectively represented by “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” and “I Believe in You.” From Loesser’s Hollywood catalog come such sparkling gems as “The Lady’s in Love With You,” “Let’s Get Lost,” “On a Slow Boat to China” and the hypnotically enchanting “Say It (Over and Over Again).”

But a Kilgore-Frishberg outing wouldn’t be complete without some adroit excavating, and here they unearth such delightful treasures as “Thank Your Lucky Stars” (a timely ode to love as a tonic for tough times), the jaunty “What a Rhumba Does to Romance” and the absolutely marvelous “Then I Wrote the Minuet in G,” in which Loesser takes to task every Tin Pan Alley hack who has sacrilegiously grafted popular lyrics onto hallowed classical compositions.

Originally Published