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Cynthia Felton: Save Your Love For Me: Sings the Nancy Wilson Classics

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Tribute albums are a tricky business. What, one must invariably ask, is the intent? To replicate the sound of the honoree? To echo his or her style? Or just to cover a slate of associated songs? Intentionally or not, in this case it is the lattermost. Vocalist and educator Cynthia Felton is a fine jazz singer, with an impressive range and impeccable instincts. But is she cut from the same mink-lined fabric as Nancy Wilson? Not really.

Wilson has had three distinct though interconnected careers, first as a plush interpreter of primarily standards, delivered with an inimitably refined elegance, then as an earthier explorer of grittier material and, in her latter years, as a bolder, more adventurous and purer jazz stylist. While it’s the third phase that Felton would best emulate, she instead focuses exclusively on Wilson’s early years at Capitol, a time when she tailored everything for the cocktail-hour and supper-club crowds.

Where Wilson imbued such signature hits as “Guess Who I Saw Today,” “(I’m Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over” and “Save Your Love for Me” with slyly genteel storytelling élan (and, when called for, a priceless hint of hauteur), Felton blazes a feistier, more aggressively authoritative trail. Hers are finely crafted readings, supported by a spectrum of exemplary players. But as a salute to Wilson, too much is lost in translation.

Originally Published