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Whitney Marchelle: Dig Dis

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Is Whitney Marchelle the Zelig of jazz? She seems a curious enigma-just try to find any personal information about her online-of indeterminate age, and appears to have released only one previous album, 2009’s Me, Marsalis & Monk. Yet she’s performed the world over, played plenty of A-list clubs and worked with a far-flung list of music’s elite, including Herbie Hancock, Clark Terry, Frank Lacy, Jonathan Batiste, James Brown, Bill Withers and Kiss. She is a formidable singer with praiseworthy scat and vocalese skills, impressive range and an appealingly scorched soul-jazz sound. Across the 14 selections on Dig Dis she ventures far and wide, working with a small army of shifting bandmates, 38 in all, among them Terry, Lacy, Jeremy Pelt and Wycliffe Gordon.

The eclectic playlist opens with reinventions of two Monk/Jon Hendricks classics: “In Walked Bud” and “My Little Butterfly (Pannonica),” both lifted from Me, Marsalis and lightly remixed; and her delightful transformation of Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation” into “Charlie Parker’s Chicken.” She’s equally at home with the stealthy “All for One,” based on Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil,” Ellington’s bespoke “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and a shimmering “Giant Steps” featuring Kim Nazarian’s lyric. She also contributes six well-crafted originals, of which her towering Nelson Mandela tribute, “Blackman Blackman,” and dreamy “Romancin’ in Jazz Time” are the clear standouts. Marchelle even finds room to reinterpret Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” with the sassy “Put a Ring on It.”

Originally Published