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Joe Beck/Laura Theodore: Golden Earrings

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There isn’t another jazz singer on the planet who sounds like Laura Theodore. Just another way of saying she’s a bona fide original. The same can be said of guitarist Joe Beck: many guitarists play and swing like he does, but his sound remains distinctive. Then consider this album. It had been in the works since late 2006, as a tribute to another much-loved original, Peggy Lee, as well as a homage to the songwriting team of Lee and her husband, Dave Barbour

(also a singer-guitarist duo). Beck became ill in 2007, soon after he and Laura completed the recording sessions, and died from lung cancer in ’08. The realization that this is his final recording makes it even more precious.

Ms Theodore, blessed with a four-octave range, uses every bit of that spread to convey a full spectrum of emotions: from the minor mode distress of “Johnny Guitar” and the scolding sarcasm of “Why Don’t You Do Right?” (What a delicious ending as Laura concludes on a strongly projected fifth, while Beck fingers his way up a minor triad, ending on a very hip major 7th; to the Latin lament, “My Small Señor;” the seductive “When You Speak With Your Eyes,” containing some sultry sotto voce scat; and of course, for comic relief, “Mañana.”

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