Annie Sellick: Street of Dreams

Plenty of solid vocalists join the jazz sorority every year. But every once in a while along comes a contender so uniquely gifted that preeminence seems a foregone conclusion. Jackie Ryan is one, Madeleine Peyroux another, also Roberta Gambarini and Kat Edmondson. Annie Sellick can be added to their elite circle.

Street of Dreams is not the Nashville native’s debut album. It is, in fact, her fifth since 2000, self-produced for her own Chalice label. All are fine but it is finest, thanks significantly to split accompaniment from two of the sharpest trios around, respectively fronted by Jeff Hamilton and Gerald Clayton. Sellick’s sound, honey-dipped yet slightly scorched, is at once sweet and seductive, girlish yet sophisticated-like Doris Day with a shaker of extra-dry martinis. Whether caught up in the romantic whirl of “I Love Paris” or navigating the street-smart slyness of “Some Cats Know,” she is consistently affecting.

But it is Sellick’s ability to challenge the seemingly sacrosanct that is most fulfilling. It takes guts, for instance, to turn “Cloudburst” on its ear, opening at a metronomic lope then accelerating to a gallop, but wittingly stopping shy of LH&R’s frenzy. Likewise, she transforms Rosemary Clooney’s campy “Mambo Italiano” into four minutes of slow-frothing sensuality. As for heartbreakers, she excels there, too, particularly on an ethereal “I Keep Goin’ Back to Joe’s” constructed of equal parts gloomy rumination and faint hope.