In today's garden of vocalists, there are many pretty flowers. Sweet and delicate, they line up in perfumed rows, but many are unlikely to make it past the first frost. Then there's the flowering tree, standing apart, with its roots deeply anchored in the groundthis one endures every weather, delivering the soulful beauty and reassurance of the survivor. That's Marlena Shaw.
Shaw sings with the ease of absolute mastery, and each feeling she expresses rings true: she's been there, and more than once. But this doesn't mean her music is heavy. Her voice is warm and inviting, her time and phrasing impeccable, and where others might communicate pain and despair, she offers wisdom and hope (see, for example, her calm, lovely delivery of "For All We Know" and "Everything Must Change").
The selections on Lookin' for Love go down easytasty gems with an R&B flavor that's enhanced each time David Hazeltine hits the Fender Rhodes. I especially liked Shaw's up-tempo take on "Here's to Life," which emphasizes the celebratory nature of the lyrics (unlike the dirgey pace of Shirley Horn's classic version), and her "What a Wonderful World," which takes all the schmaltz out of Louis's hit and makes it prayerful. Another highlight is the finger-snapping pace of "Sweet Georgia Brown," followed by a moving piano/voice duet on "You Don't Know What Love Is."
No flavor-of-the-month singing herethis is fine, vintage wine, served in multifaceted crystal.
Hope in a Hopeless World, New York State of Mind, For All We Know, Just the
Two of Us, Everything Must Change, Here's to Life, Easy Living, Mercy,
Mercy, Mercy, What a Wonderful World, Sweet Georgia Brown, You Don't Know What Love Is
Marlena Shaw (vocals), David Hazeltine (piano, Fender-Rhodes), Jeff Chambers (bass), Lenny Robinson (drums), Saoli Sendo (percussion)