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Regina Belle: Lazy Afternoon

More than a half-dozen albums to her credit, each a satisfying testament to her unique brand of funky, urban soul-infused jazz, and you probably still only know Regina Belle as half of the team (with Peabo Bryson) that transformed the Aladdin theme “A Whole New World” into an Grammy and Oscar winner. Time, then, to nab a copy of Belle’s terrific new Lazy Afternoon (Peak), produced and arranged by keyboardist extraordinaire George Duke. Don’t be surprised if on the dozen standards collected here Belle reminds you rather strongly of Natalie Cole. They’re cut from the precise same R&B-meets-jazz checkerboard cloth. Weaving her way through “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Corcovado,” “The Man I Love” and a delicious, back stoop, hen party version of Dave Lambert’s “Why Do People Fall In Love,” Belle manages, though, to maintain tighter control than Cole, navigating the emotional highs and lows with gracious precision and skillfully muted power. As inviting as it is dynamic, Lazy Afternoon should, I hope, at long last place Belle were she deserves to be, on an even footing with the likes of Dianne Reeves and Nnenna Freelon.

Originally Published