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Madeleine Peyroux: Half The Perfect World

Suzanne Lorge By

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Madeleine Peyroux confidently walks the line where jazz, country and blues collide—her understated vocals and Billie Holiday-esque phrasing are what pull the disparate elements of her performance together into an engaging pastiche.

Peyroux's bailiwick is pop covers with stylized jazz arrangements: On the Leonard Cohen/Anjani Thomas title cut, "Half The Perfect World," her accompaniment is light Latin rhythm guitar, and in an unhurried duet with k.d. lang on Joni Mitchell's "River, minimal piano. Peyroux and lang share a deep-throated vocal quality and thus their lines complement each other, setting the lyrics in bas relief against the spare musical background.

Three of the four originals are jaunty, almost pop mid-tempo pieces that Peyroux delivers lightheartedly and honestly. The players match her wit: guitarist/ukulele player Dean Parks displays consummate precision and harmonic discernment not only during his solos on the originals "I'm All Right and "A Little Bit, but throughout the disc. Greg Leisz adds pedal steel guitar to several of the tunes, including the third original, "California Rain, and the Tom Waits classic "(Looking For) The Heart Of Saturday Night, giving them an unexpected country feel.

Peyroux, who spent her formative musical years in Paris, usually includes a French tune on her albums: She turns out French icon Serge Gainsbourg's "La Javanaise in a traditional chanson style, complete with strings, arranged by Tin Hat-ter Mark Orton. Orton also contributed string arrangements to the fourth original, "Once In A While, an insouciant ballad about love fading away.

Peyroux closes the CD with an atypical interpretation of the Charlie Chaplin standard "Smile. This dulcet rendition conveys an optimism not normally found in the bittersweet lyrics, and trumpeter Till Bronner sounds positively cheerful. No surprise there: Peyroux and her musical allies clearly have something to smile about.

Track Listing: I'm All Right; The Summer Wind; Blue Alert; Everybody's Talkin'; River; A Little Bit; Once In A While; (Looking For) The Heart Of Saturday Night; Half The Perfect World; La Javanaise; California Rain; Smile.

Personnel: Madeleine Peyroux: vocals; Sam Yahel: piano, Wurlitzer piano, Hammond organ, Estey organ; Dean Parks: guitar, ukelele; David Piltch: bass; Jay Bellerose: drums, cymbals; Gary Foster: alto sax; Scott Amendola: drums; Larry Goldings: celeste; Larry Klein: Wurlitzer piano; K.D. Lang: vocal; Carla Kihlstedt: violin; Graeme Jennings: violin; Charith Premawardhana: viola; Sam Bass: cello; Till Bronner: trumpet: Greg Leisz: pedal steel guitar; Mark Orton: string arrangement.

Title: Half The Perfect World | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Rounder Records

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