Singer-pianist Ace Harris’ daughter and trumpeter-bandleader Erskine Hawkins’ niece, Asa Harris continues her family’s musical heritage in her debut album. Harris’ experience as a stage, film, and television actress is evident in her forceful vocal projection, but she does not appear wholly comfortable performing in a jazz context. She rarely departs from the melody lines of her material, consigning improvisational duties to bassist Tom Kennedy and pianists Ray Kennedy and Kim Portnoy. Harris fails to find a way to refresh such overworked songs as “Love for Sale” and “Someone to Watch Over Me” and struggles with the demanding low tones of “A Time for Love” and “The Jitterbug Waltz.” But her dramatic interpretations of Kurt Weill’s “It Never Was You” and “Mack the Knife”, the latter in German, and her vibrant tribute to her uncle’s “Tuxedo Junction” amply demonstrate her considerable abilities as a theater and cabaret artist. As with the three previous releases in its new vocal series, MAXJAZZ’s packaging is uncommonly handsome, and the label’s inclusion of a CD-ROM video bonus track gives purchasers a welcome opportunity to see as well as hear the performers.
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