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Lisa Engelken: Caravan

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It’s tough for a neophyte jazz vocalist not to be stylistically influenced by the masters she has learned from. It’s equally difficult for a relative newcomer to avoid mimicry of classic renditions of the songs she’s covering. In both respects, Bay Area singer/actress Lisa Engelken is a refreshing exception. She is an utter original.

Blessed with superlative power, control and range, Engelken can, as mood requires, be as soft as dew or as intense as a sleet storm; her interpretive instincts are astounding. She takes a cross-section of well-known compositions and digs soul-deep to reveal the unfamiliar in the familiar. “We’ll Be Together Again” has been done a thousand times, inevitably construed as an aching ode to parting lovers. But in Engelken’s skilled hands, it instead traces the increasingly forceful ousting of an unwanted paramour.

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