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Sophie Milman: In the Moonlight

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If Marilyn Monroe’s gifts had included first-rate jazz chops, this is precisely the sort of album she would have delivered. Sophie Milman has, across three previous albums, proven herself an intoxicating seductress, and now her steaminess is at full boil. The voice is a shade throatier, her delivery more voluptuous, her naturally warm tone ratcheted up several degrees; all 14 selections like lush fruit, ripe for the picking.

Yet never amid such succulence does she lose focus. Whether tracing the quiet contentment of “Till There Was You,” navigating the furtive shadows of “Speak Low,” unfurling the sweet, slightly wanton promise of “Watch What Happens” or riding “Let Me Love You” at a jaunty clip, she hits each emotional core dead center. Befitting an artist assuming her rightful place in the major leagues, producer Matt Pierson surrounds Milman with A-list talent, including pianists Gerald Clayton and Kevin Hays, guitarists Romero Lubambo and Julian Lage, bassist Larry Grenadier, drummer Lewis Nash and percussionist Bashiri Johnson, plus guest soloists Chris Potter (tenor sax), Randy Brecker (flugelhorn) and Gregoire Maret (harmonica) and banks of strings. Their individual and collective contributions are as nectarous as Milman’s vocals.

The arrangements, variously contributed by Alan Broadbent, Gil Goldstein and Rob Mounsey, are abundant with cleverly accentuating touches, like the Maret-kissed evocation of an intimate Parisian boîteon Serge Gainsbourg’s “Ces Petit Riens” and the Potter-led weather patterns of “Detour Ahead,” subtly alternating between sun-dappled and overcast, ideally befitting the lyric’s shifting moods.

Originally Published