Antoinette Montague works with a top-notch ensemble for this project. The other musicians provide her vibrant voice with a cohesive sound that mellows all around her with a deeply felt blues spirit. Hence the title Pretty Blues, which emphasizes the luster that fills the room.
The New York-based singer has an active career that spans several genres. Gospel, blues, swing and jazz have armed her with innumerable tools that allow her to express herself naturally with strong emotions. The only problem is that she restrains herself at times throughout the program, backing off when a serious release seems to be called for. She's at her best with the blues, as on "Pretty Blues, "Drink Muddy Water and "Every Day. In this relaxed setting, Montague opens up and lets the sound flow naturally, giving her performance a considerable lift.
Standards such as "Blue Skies and "From This Moment On swing gently and provide a rhythmic flow that grabs the listener and won't let go. However, that's due primarily to the band's rich texture and grit, rather than the singer's own projection.
Dedicated to You does not work out well, and "At Last faces the problem of being compared to the original. Montague's experiments with a blues feeling, as on "Miss Celie's Blues, work better. Bill Easley's tenor makes a suitable musical companion for her deeply felt blues. It's the best direction for this natural-born singer, who loves her work and knows how to enjoy it.
Antoinette Montague: vocals; Bill Easley: tenor saxophone, flute; Mulgrew Miller: piano; Peter
Washington: bass; Kenny Washington: drums.