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Deborah Latz: Fig Tree

C. Michael Bailey By

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West Coast/East Coast vocalist Deborah Latz has release two well- received CDs to date: 2004's Toward Love and 2008's Lifeline (both on June Moon Productions). Coming from a stage background, Latz has no problem instilling drama into her interpretations and does so without sounding like she is trying too hard, a pitfall of many of her contemporaries. Latz has a probing and brilliant alto voice that can achieve several ends at the same time. She can readily conquer the sharp edges of progressively arranged standards like the opening "Blue Skies" while sustaining an always challenging, ultra-slow tempo as on the wholly transformed Cole Porter, "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To." Latz's approach to the standard material is fiercely unique and comparable only to the Tierney Sutton Band's recent recordings, American Road (BFM, 2011) and Desire (Telarc, 2008).

"Blue Skies" is given a nervous, urban instrumental treatment, with Latz stretching the phrasing dramatically to the point where the phrasing threatens to lose momentum. But there is no loss, the power velocity is rock steady. Guitarist John Hart provides a jagged edge in his solo, as well as his obligato behind Latz. Jon Davis' piano adds a taste of the islands bolstered by Willard Dyson's deft drumming. "You'd Be So Nice..." is completely reimagined as a Shirley Horn blues slow-drag, introduced with piano and arco bass before establishing its reharmonized direction. Davis channels Gene Harris' blues sensibility in his solo.

In "I'm Having A Good Time," Latz finds her Billie Holiday muse, bolstered by Hart's tasty blues guitar and Davis' two-fisted piano playing. "Embraceable You" and "Corcovado" make an interesting internal diptych, the former experimental and bracing (Latz and bassist Parker duet) and the latter sleek and smooth, as breezy as it should be, again featuring Hart's handy guitar work. The closing "Moon River" is somber and slightly dissonant and easily the slowest tempo on the record. Singing slow is one of the most challenging things for a singer to do. Latz with there with the best of them: Horn and Rebecca Parris.

Latz's original compositions are provocative. "You Are" features Peter Apfelbaum tenor saxophone sparing with Latz to a draw, giving equal attention to both voices in this unusual duet. Edgy and unsettled "You Are" only anticipates the equally challenging "She was." Latz is not a devoted genre-breaker, opting to color within the lines, just sometimes she moves those lines.

Track Listing: Blue Skies; Hi-Fly; You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To; E Luxo So; I’m Having a Good Time; You Are; Fevgo; S’Wonderful; Fig Tree; Embraceable You; Corcovado; Ill Wind; She Was; Moon River.

Personnel: Deborah Latz: vocals; Jon Davis: piano; John Hart: acoustic and electric guitars; Ray Parker: bass; Willard Dyson: drums, percussion; Peter Apfelbaum: tenor and soprano saxophones, flute, percussion; Abdoulaye: voice (13).

Title: Fig Tree | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: June Moon Productions

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