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Lauren Hooker: Life Of The Music

Dan Bilawsky By

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In 2007, vocalist Lauren Hooker turned out an impressive debut, Right Where I Belong (Musical Legends, Inc., 2007), which highlighted her solid, yet flexible, voice, and an ability to graft her own lyrics onto familiar instrumental jazz standards. Three years later, Hooker returns with a program that largely focuses on her own lyrics and music, demonstrating interests in the blues, straight-ahead jazz, funk, pop and Brazilian music.

The opening track—a collaboration between Hooker and poet Jeanette Curtis Rideau—has some bite to it, featuring a burning solo from Scott Robinson's molten soprano saxophone. "If That's What You Feel" begins with Hooker's wordless vocals moving along with Robinson's flugelhorn, over a swaying Brazilian beat. One of the most emotionally powerful originals on the album is "I Am Doing Very Well"—a break-up song that touches on all of the conflicting emotions and pain that comes with that territory. Bassist Martin Wind adds a little Brazilian bounce to "I Lied," but John Hart's guitar work is the focal point on this one. Wind and drummer Tim Horner are a solid team behind Hooker on "Countin' The Blues," which features a terrific walking-the-bar-type saxophone solo from Robinson. "Hey This Is Me" is Hooker's take on contemporary pop—with a slight R&B tinge to the music—and "Walkin' On Down The Line" features some funky drumming from Horner and raunchy guitar sounds from Hart.

While Hooker's compositional craft is at the core of the album, she also finds time to tackle four standards, shaped to her own liking. Her vocals cut like a knife on "Love Me Or Leave Me," which features some sublime scatting, and she soars on a waltzing "Spring Is Here." The latter tune is underscored by Horner's crisp, dry and articulate ride cymbal work, and Robinson's fluttery flute is a treat here. "Some Other Time" gently glides long as Hooker is intimately accompanied by Mike Richmond on bass and Hart on guitar. Seagulls had their place on Hooker's first album—with "Seagulls (Seagulls of Kristiansund)"—and this particular fowl found its way onto this record through Joni Mitchell's "Song To A Seagull." Hooker manages to create wide dramatic range—coming off with full throated vocals that Mitchell couldn't match when she penned this early-career classic—and the pairing of cello and piano is a nice touch. While this song has a sunny veneer, darker moods seem to lurk around. Life Of The Music, with its engaging original material and intelligently crafted covers, might just get plenty of people hooked on Lauren Hooker.

Track Listing: Life Of The Music/Your Music Brings Out The Poetry In Me; If That's What You Feel; Love Me Or Leave Me; I Am Doing Very Well; Song To A Seagull; I Lied; Spring Is Here; Countin' The Blues; Hey This Is Me; Walkin' On Down The Line; Some Other Time.

Personnel: Lauren Hooker: vocals, acoustic piano, electric piano; djembe; Jim Ridl: acoustic piano; Tim Horner: drums, congas, pandera, shaker, whistle, flute; Scott Robinson: flute, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, flugelhorn, trumpet; John Hart: acostic guitar, electric guitar; Jeanette Curtis Rideau: spoken word (1); Mike Richmond: cello (5), acoustic bass (11)

Title: Life Of The Music | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Miles High Records

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