Lift Every Voice

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Jimmy Scott: Moon Glow (Milestone)
It took a long time in coming, but Jimmy Scott’s sure found his career groove with his series of “comeback” albums with Todd Barkan for the Milestone label. Barkan somehow knows how to set up Scott’s distinctive vocal presence – an unparalleled dynamic between Scott’s exquisite sense of jazz and blues timing, and the ravages of Kallmann’s Syndrome on his voice – with simple perfection. On his fourth Milestone set, Scott burns like a classic torch singer through classic songs, except he seems to do more than sing these songs – he seems to embody them, to give them their own life through his voice.

Scott discovers more shadow than light in “Since I Fell For You,” which pianist Larry Willis and saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman cook up to boiling, and his duet with Willis on “Those Who Were” runs so deep it seems to stop time. This tragic, mournful arrangement of “Solitude” makes the song sound written for Scott, again with Willis plus Grïgoire Maret on harmonica blues. Guitarist Joe Beck also offers soulful counterpart, jazzing up the feel to the opening “Moonglow,” in which Scott languidly bathes just behind the beat, and the nattily swinging “I Thought About You.”


Various Artists: Vanthology: A Tribute to Van Morrison (Evidence)
The mercurial Morrison has consistently honored classic blues, soul, and R&B music in the material favored by The Them, which he co-founded, as well as his own inimitable compositions as a solo artist. Here he’s on the receiving end of the tributes from soul and blues legends performing Morrison’s compositions.

Guitarist/vocalist Little Milton begins with his soulful take on “Tupelo Honey” (sort of payback for Morrison’s cover of Milton’s “Grits Ain’t Groceries”). Other guitarists include Dan Penn, sounding like a youthful Eric Clapton on “Bright Side of the Road,” and Son Seals, who plows his rough guitar and vocal style through the “Queen of the Slipstream.”

Frederick Knight delivers a powerful, emotional “Into the Mystic” that truly demonstrates Morrison’s grasp of things both heavenly and “in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.” Chuck Jackson is the perfect artist to bring Vanthology to a close: He’s worked with both the Del-Vikings and the Basie Band, and brings a bluesy shade to the set-ending “Moondance.”

That these songs glow with such a transcendent spiritual air honors Morrison the composer. It is a tribute to these performers that this glow shines so brightly here.


Ithamara Koorax: Love Dance: The Ballad Album (Milestone)
Koorax has released several albums in Brazil and Japan, but Love Dance is only the second US album for this star from Rio, the follow-up to her debut Serenade in Blue.

Koorax sings in an unmistakable voice English, Portuguese, and Spanish love songs composed by such masters as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfï, Marcos Valle and Ivan Lins, plus songs by Claus Ogerman and Jurgen Friedrich (in German). Her voice manifests this diversity to its advantage: Koorax does not sound like a Brazilian singer or an American singer or a jazz singer or a pop or Latin singer. She sounds like she can sing just about anything.

Subtitle this set “The Dedication Album”: The soothing and seductive opening version of Jobim’s “Ligia” is dedicated to Stanley Turrentine; “Man Alone” to Jimmy Scott; “Blauauge,” a duet with composer Friedrich on piano, to Art Farmer; and the title track to Mark Murphy (whose 1988 Milestone session, September Ballads, inspired this Dance ).

With this title track, performed with Azymuth, Koorax transforms one of Brazilian composer Ivan Lins’ finest moments into one of her own finest moments, too. She sails with this smooth fusion band, letting the last few notes of a phrase throatily fade in a husky whisper (like Stan Getz on sax), sharpening and rounding notes’ edges, then exploding like brilliant sunlight to close. Love Dance also features John McLaughlin’s first date supporting a vocalist (“Man Alone”) and album notes by Ira Gitler, neither honor a small one.


Michael Franks: Anthology: The Art of Love (Rhino)
31 digitally remastered tracks across two CDs span from Franks’ three-decade career, with something from every one of his Warner Bros. releases plus his Windham Hill album Barefoot on the Beach, performances with the Australian sextet Crossfire and the Yellowjackets, and studio tracks with Joe Sample and Brenda Russell.


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