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Stacey Kent: Tenderly

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Though Stacey Kent was born in the States and has been based in England for almost her entire career, she’s developed deep musical passions for France and Brazil, often singing in perfect French and flawless Portuguese. (It’s worth noting here that Kent received France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2009.) Tenderly, Kent’s 11th studio album, harkens back to her salad days before all the multilingual finery, focusing almost exclusively on American standards. Still, she can’t help adding some exquisite Latin flair, having legendary Brazilian guitarist Roberto Menescal as her principal accompanist and including Menescal’s lilting “Agarradinhos” among the dozen tracks.

While Kent’s sessions have always tended to be gentle and pensive, Tenderly‘s soft elegance is particularly understated. On “Agarradinhos” and the closing “If I Had You,” Menescal provides sole support. Bassist Jeremy Brown joins him for the balance of the album, with tenor saxophonist Jim Tomlinson (Kent’s husband and longtime producer) tiptoeing in on six tracks. Throughout, Kent’s voice remains one of the most appealing in jazz-so pliant, so enticingly smoke-tinged, so warmly expressive. As the name suggests, tenderness prevails: “The Very Thought of You,” “Embraceable You,” “That’s All,” “There Will Never Be Another You,” “If I’m Lucky” and the title cut are crafted of gossamer and silk. Even “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” emerges more ruminative than forlorn. If there’s a standout, it’s “No Moon at All,” with Kent’s reading, alternatively noirish and kittenish, cunningly trimmed by Tomlinson as he switches to alto flute.

Originally Published