Sara Lazarus is in no hurry. After the Delaware-born French emigré won first prize at the 1994 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, she waited over a decade to record her debut, 2005's Give Me the Simple Life. To the benefit of jazz listeners, she didn't wait long to record a followup: It's All Right With Me finds the singer once again taking her time and making every word count, as if to imbue each syllable with the deepest possible meaning. The result is a fresh take on classic songs that avoids overindulgent flashiness.
Like her debut, which covered the well-worn theme of love, It's All Right With Me recalls the Frank Sinatra concept albums of yesteryear. Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim (Warner Brothers, 1967) comes to mind, but instead of bossa nova, Lazarus has opted for gypsy-influenced jazz, finding ideal support in Bireli Lagrène's Gipsy Project.
Lagrène's group owes an inescapable debt to Django Reinhardt, but his mastery of Reinhardt's buoyant sound is crucial to the album's success. Lagrène, who joined Lazarus for three cuts on Give Me the Simple Life, is an impressive virtuoso guitarist who liberally embellishes his solos with arpeggiated lines, flourishes and fast runs. His chops-oriented methodology is the perfect counterpoint to Lazarus' simpler melodic approach.
This does not mean that a technical weakness accounts for Lazarus' straightforward style. "Down With Love" demonstrates that she can deliver an emotionally rich performance at a fast tempo without succumbing to superfluous scat-singing. Likewise, Lagrène's contributions are not merely decorative; for example, his solo on "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" is typically ornate, but also suffused with much feeling.
The inclusion of a French ballad ("Dans Mon Ile"), along with exquisite string arrangements on three tracks, add elegance and variety to an already lovely album. At her own pace, Sara Lazarus has embarked on an impressive recording career; if she has more albums in her like It's All Right With Me, she can take all the time she needs.
Gypsy in My Soul; Taking a Chance On Love; What a Little Moonlight Can Do; Embraceable You; It's All Right
With Me; Dans Mon Ile; Deed I Do; Down With Love; Jim; The Way You Look Tonight; In the Wee Small Hours of
the Morning; Cheek to Cheek.
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