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Sylvia Bennett: Songs From the Heart

If the cover’s promise of accompaniment by “the three tenors” ignites images of Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and the ghost of Luciana Pavarotti rising up behind cabaret singer (and one-time Lionel Hampton protégée) Sylvia Bennett, don’t worry. The tenors in question, all equally world-class, are saxophonists Boots Randolph, Ed Calle and Kirk Whalum.

As Bennett works her way through a dozen time-honored standards, Randolph, Calle and Whalum take turns in the driver’s seat, teaming only once, for the album’s standout track, “Since I Fell for You.” And, indeed, it is the tenors who steer this project. Bennett’s voice is soft and lovely, suggestive of a mellower, more soulful version of the young Patti Page. As such, it provides the pretty, steadfast focal point around which the three horns are allowed to swirl. Her readings of “When Sunny Gets Blue,” “Embraceable You,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” and such are like the vocal equivalent of a series of leather-bound books: rich, sturdy and supple, but largely indistinguishable from one another. Randolph, Calle and Whalum are the jackets, adding the requisite style, color and distinctive flourishes.

Originally Published