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Laverne Butler: A Foolish Thing to Do

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It’s both exciting and satisfying to hear a fledgling artist find her voice. When LaVerne Butler made her MaxJazz debut two years ago with Blues in the City, it suggested a promise unfulfilled. Blessed with a lovely voice and a technician’s musical savvy, Butler clearly had a head for jazz. That knowledge and skill still needed, though, to find its way to her heart.

There wasn’t yet, to paraphrase Gloria Steinem, enough there there.

Now, with the release of the follow-up, A Foolish Thing to Do, Butler makes it evident she’s intent on keeping her promise. The lack of emotional candor that marred much of Blues in the City is still evident here, though to a significantly diminished degree. Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things” is tossed aside too lightly, and the inherent joy of “Make Someone Happy” seems absent. They are, however, the only flies in an otherwise rich, aromatic ointment. Butler adds just the right touch of wistfulness to “When I Fall in Love,” and on “The End of a Love Affair” she effectively exploits the lyric’s muted hysteria. Unlike many pop singers, she gets the refracted self-pity of Bacharach and David’s “Make It Easy on Yourself.” Butler also deserves kudos for rescuing Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s under-appreciated “Go Away Little Boy” from the Steve Lawrence/Donny Osmond discard bin.

If a Foolish Thing to Do is proper indication, Butler’s ascension should proceed unabated, especially if she’s wise enough to stick with Richard McDonnell’s standard-setting MaxJazz label and continues to keep company with such inspirational sidemen as trumpet genius Terell Stafford, bassist Darryl Hall and pianist/producer Bruce Barth.