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Maxine Sullivan: Love Always

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Love Always finds Sullivan, a month shy of her 76th birthday, sounding as sprightly as ever on a tasty program of upbeat rhythm tunes and romantic ballads. Although the passage of time is evident in slightly lowered keys and diminished breath control, she has evolved into a more expressive storyteller, delivering lyrics with mature wit and insight. Pianist Dick Hyman’s quartet-featuring bassist Major Holley, drummer Mel Lewis and Seldon Powell on tenor saxophone and flute-offers more modern backing than the singer usually received on her numerous ’80s recordings. (The opening track, “It’s Crazy” begins with the “Night in Tunisia” vamp.) Sullivan’s affecting interpretations of “This Is New,” “Two for the Road,” and “I’ll Never Stop Loving You” demonstrate that, even in the twilight of her career, she never ceased to challenge herself or deliver anything less than first-rate performances.