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Janis Seigel: Friday Night Special

C. Michael Bailey By

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As a founding member of the Manhattan Transfer, Janis Siegel need not prove her jazz credentials. She has been recording as a vocal leader since 1982, when she released Experiment in White on Atlantic. She has released six more recordings since that time, including the well received Tender Trap , I Wish You Love , and now Friday Night Special.

Friday Night Special departs form Ms. Siegel’s earlier recordings in that her band is pared down to the bare essentials—in this case, an organ quartet. Upon hearing that, one might be tempted to think that this is going to be a beer drinking, cigarette smoking, greasy affair... but it is anything but. Friday Night Special is a sexy sophisticated date with Ms. Siegel joining Joey DeFrancesco, Houston Person, Peter Bernstein, Russell Malone, and Buddy Williams.

Produced by music maven Joel Dorn, Friday Night Special is bluesy at its base. Janis Siegel purloins Bill Wither’s "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh, Made Me Cry" and makes it her own. Houston Person adds a most tasty tenor obbligato to the piece, riding over the swinging landscape produced by DeFrancesco and company. She dovetails Billy Myles’ "My Love Is" into Willie Dixon’s "My Babe," with an allusion to "Fever" to boot.

Eddy Arnold’s "You don’t Know Me" gets the finest non-country attention since Ray Charles recorded it on New Sounds in Country and Western Music. The tenor-organ mix heats these selections up like a fever. The combination feels infectiously swinging and smart. Ms. Siegel has an intelligently sexy delivery, seasoned, piquant and full-bodied. Friday Night Special is on the shortlist for jazz vocal recordings in 2003.

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