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Annie Lennox: Nostalgia

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Though he doesn’t appear on Nostalgia, Herbie Hancock deserves partial credit for its inspiration. Back in 2012, Lennox was rehearsing with Hancock for a concert presented in Washington as part of the United Nations’ Global AIDS Conference. It was the first time she’d worked within a pure jazz milieu, and she liked the feel of it. As she comments in the press materials, “My curiosity always seems to lead me to interesting experiences.” Lennox dove into YouTube, checking out classic vocal performances while better acquainting herself with the Great American Songbook. But she stopped short of in-depth listening sessions of Sinatra, Fitzgerald, Holiday and other masters, not wanting, even if unintentionally, to risk imitation.

She needn’t have worried. Among pop divas, Lennox has always ranked among the most intelligent and intuitive. Recognizing that the roots of jazz and blues are tightly intertwined, she opts for a bluesy approach to these dozen standards. She also cleverly avoids the trap, common among pop stars who make the move to jazz, of overly syrupy orchestrations.

The backing here is lean yet unfailingly inventive; the results are unilaterally stunning. A chilling “Strange Fruit.” A Sunday-go-to-meeting “Georgia on My Mind.” A warm, tender “You Belong to Me.” A majestic, gospel-enflamed “God Bless the Child.” A moody “September in the Rain.” A weepin’, wailin’, dragged-through-the-mud “Mood Indigo.” It is for Lennox a rather perfect storm (with appropriately grandiose theatricality where warranted), as she remains utterly respectful of the source material while staying entirely true to herself.

Originally Published