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Tom Lellis & Toninho Horta: Tonight

This is Tom Lellis’ seventh album as leader (rather disappointing output, considering the immensity of his talents as singer and keyboardist, since those seven releases span 27 years). It is also his fourth to include Brazilian guitar virtuoso (and sometime vocalist) Toninho Horta. On previous platters, additional players surrounded Lellis and Horta. Here they are left solely in one another’s company, and the results are sublime. Indeed, if lustrous pearls set against black couture represent the height of understated elegance, then Lellis and Horta are, in combination, the Audrey Hepburn of Latin-fused jazz.

As they wind their leisurely way through 11 standards and three originals, Lellis’ inherent Mark Murphy-ness remains strongly, often startlingly, evident. It is, however, softened-or perhaps “lulled” is a better word-by the gentle seductiveness of Horta’s guitar. The covers are so consistently gorgeous that it is impossible to elevate one above the others, though “Dindi” and “My Romance,” on which Lellis sings the English lyrics as Horta counters in Portuguese, are uniquely stunning. As for the originals, two-the grand “An Infinite Love,” at once cloud-soft and sharply angular as it explores love’s limitless magnitude, and “Dreamwalking” (sort of a modern-day “Girl From Ipanema,” praising a passing, and perceivably unattainable, goddess)-were cowritten by Lellis and Horta. The third, “Three for Marie (3/4 Marie),” is Lellis’ own, and cunningly suggests a mellower, more sensuous “Waltz for Debby.”

Originally Published