Vocalist Jacqui Naylor and pianist/guitarist Art Khu represent one of the most compelling, if underappreciated, partnerships in jazz. To date, however, Naylor and Khu have typically performed and recorded as part of a quartet, often alongside bassist Jon Evans and drummer-percussionist Josh Jones. At last, they deliver their first album à deux. Nor is the quartet all they’ve abandoned for Q&A: Also gone is their trademark “acoustic smashing,” the intricate layering of a pop or rock tune atop a jazz standard.
Clever as their genre-mashing concoctions are, it’s refreshing to hear Naylor and Khu in the raw—just the cozy, intimate pairing of her Amy Winehouse-meets-Pearl Bailey sound and his elegantly informed playing. To fill the album’s 13 tracks, they stick mostly to standards—a gently ebullient “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” slinky “Charade,” dreamy “Once Upon a Summertime,” tender “Secret Love” and such. And though Naylor and Khu do invade rock’s annals, they choose from the balladic end of the spectrum, covering the warmly romantic Extreme hit “More Than Words.”