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Janet Carroll: Lady Be Good

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You’ve likely seen actress Janet Carroll in a dozen or more TV and film roles, though she remains best known for playing Tom Cruise’s impeccably polished mother in Risky Business. What has remained a well-kept secret for too long is that Carroll is also an impeccably polished jazz singer. Her musical résumé includes several self-produced albums, but it wasn’t until this year that Carroll found a home at Arbors. There’s a plush sophistication to Carroll’s sound, but just below her porcelain surface is a layer of saucy playfulness.

In other words, she is the contemporary equivalent of the great Lee Wiley. Consider, for instance, her take on “I Love Paris,” which clearly suggests an intimate familiarity with the City of Light’s lustier side. She cooks “What Is This Thing Called Love” atop a sizzling, Harry Allen-propelled bossa beat without diffusing any of the lyric’s romantic bewilderment, and nicely impassions the bounce of “Mountain Greenery.” Carroll also expertly captures the wistful longing of “Skylark” and, alone with pianist Mike Renzi, delivers a “You’ll Never Know” of stunning simplicity.

Curious, among so many standards, is her inclusion of the blues classic “Fore Day Creep,” made famous by Ida Cox in the late ’20s. Stepping out of urbane character, Carroll leaps on it like a panther on sirloin, proving that she can get good and gritty.

Originally Published