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Musical suspicions are immediately raised when jazz singer Lauren White is described as a cross between Linda Ronstadt and Norah Jones. White is a twenty year-old native of Grapevine, Texas; a child prodigy singer from age four. She did, indeed, study with the same vocal coach as Jones, but the latter has little of White's smoky and seductive vocal assets as a jazz chanteuse. White performs Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou"which was one of Ronstadt's biggest hitson At Last, and even sings it in a similar manner, Still, her demeanor is significantly more low-key, avoiding the range of "Blue Bayou on the rest of the album.
Now for the good news. This is one impressive debut session. The set list research factor alone shows that roughly half of this album will be unfamiliar material to most listeners. Beginning as a slinky seductress in an after-hours boite on Ira Gershwin's "My One and Only," White follows it up with her original "All I Do Is Cry" in a very similar mode. A jolt of familiarity follows with "Blue Bayou," but then she provides a poignant original, Do You Remember." In order to please the masses, Kurt Weill's world-famous "Mack The Knife" follows. Although delivered in the standard swing format, drummer Mark Ferber makes it interesting with an Ahmad Jamal "Poinciana -type pattern.
White takes a chance on the Cole Porter classic "Love For Sale," beginning with the spooky verse, and when the familiar melody sets in, it is played for the storytelling of a "woman of the streets." Over the past few decades, it seems that too few vocalists have presented the song in the style or tempo that Ella Fitzgerald did on her Cole Porter Songbook (Verve, 1956). Guitarist Anthony Wilson, who also did the arrangement, gets in some fine blues licks on his solo, as does the appropriate use of Joe Bagg's Hammond B-3 organ.
White sings Rodgers & Hart's "My Funny Valentine"a tune which should be given a temporary rest. Her version is ameliorated, however, by Ricky Woodward's gutsy tenor sax solo. Country singer Lee Ann Womack's Why They Call It Falling" is an unexpected treat; a lighthearted look at love on which Norah Jones could also have done a fine job.
With the appetite-whetting At Last, the only question is: what's next?
Track Listing: My One and Only; All I Do Is Cry; Blue Bayou; Do You Remember; Mack The Knife; Love For Sale; Brand New Love; Superstar; My Funny Valentine; Why They Call It Falling;
Personnel: Lauren White: vocals; Bill Cunliffe: piano; Anthony Wilson: guitar; Ricky Woodard: tenor sax; Brian Piper: piano and arrangements; Chuck Berghofer: bass; Joe Bagg: Hammond B-3 organ; Mark Ferber: drums.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.