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Jennifer Lee: Quiet Joy

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Jennifer Lee has a voice that makes it appear she is frolicking through fields of grassy meadows which go on forever as she enjoys the fresh scents of the open air. On her new CD, Quiet Joy from SBE Records, her calming style is filled to the brim with a lolling pitch that provides tranquil escapes while engulfed in softly modulated harmonies. With all the songs arranged by Lee and her guitarist Peter Sprague, Lee leads her band into a smooth swing/straight-ahead jazz set as she coos lovingly in Frank Churchill and Ned Washington’s classic lullaby “Baby Mine” and engraves scintillating sensations along George and Ira Gershwin’s luxuriously swaged “S’Wonderful.” Accompanied by pianist David Udolf, string bassists Bob Magnusson and Buca Necak, percussionist Raul Ramirez, drummer Duncan Moore, saxophone-harmonica player Tripp Sprague, and cellist Carter Dewberry, Lee sings a riveting repertoire of American and Brazilian standards that show reverence for traditional straight-ahead jazz idioms while updating their nostalgic luster with modern impressions.

Lee’s vocals complement the samba rhythm of Jayme Da Silva and John Henricks number “O Pato” with the instincts of a Latin dancer as she threads subtle nuances along the chord progressions coaxing this number come alive. She performs with unwavering confidence as she straddles American standards like John Burke and Arthur Johnston’s smoothly stylized “Pennies From Heaven” and Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner’s softly lathered “On A Clear Day.” The music is beautifully polished as she bonds with her band who perform to her specific proportions, dipping when her vocals do, opening space for her vocals to bud, and propping her vocal melodies with gentle suspensions like the glistening guitar strokes that web Lee’s original tune “Quiet Joy.” The Latin flavoring of Roberto Menescal and Ronaldo Boscoli’s island swayed “O Barquinho” seem natural in Lee’s hold, and she is equally adept at riding the calypso-tinged grooves that preen an attractive rhythmic beating in Renato Motha Arlequiim’s merengue-driven “Menina da Lua.” Her resonance is aurally soothing and exhibits a fairytale-feel in its lolling pitch.

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