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Kayla Taylor : You’d Be Surprised

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Though her early forays were more rock and pop, in recent years Atlanta’s Kayla Taylor has, in partnership with guitarist Steve Moore, found her musical focus with jazz standards. There’s a slight, if persistent, twang to Taylor’s voice that reveals her Southern roots. But the effect, like an amalgamation of dewy Sophie Milman with fellow Canadian k.d. lang, is thoroughly enticing-pert, yet a wee bit pouty. It serves her well on an opening “Good Morning Heartache,” more gently regretful than maudlin, and is equally effective on a bossa-swung “Just One of Those Things” and a flirty “You’d Be Surprised.”

Moore and his piano-less band-drummer-percussionist Michael Dana, bassist Justin Owen-Head and saxophonist Will

Scruggs-draw on the Flamingos’ classic 1959 version to shape “I Only Have Eyes for You,” with Taylor ably following their shimmering lead. The lesser-known Gershwin gem “Treat Me Rough” is delivered with showgirl sauciness and, kudos to all four players, a shadowy “Devil May Care” finds her dancing among undulating flames.

But the closing track, a Moore-led “Blues Stay Away From Me,” seems plucked from an entirely different album. Taylor’s vocal, though powerfully mournful, feels neither down nor dirty enough, particularly when measured against the cut-loose wail of lang’s “Honky Tonk Angels’ Medley” version from 1988’s Shadowland.

Originally Published