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It's clear from the first note of Tahna Running's American debut CD, Time For Love, that she isn't your run-of-the-mill twenty-first century singer. Just as dipping one's foot into a pool doesn't qualify as swimming, putting a couple of jazz songs on a pop CD doesn't create a jazz singer. Time for Love is a full roster of standards that was recorded in one take, with no rehearsals.
Most of the pieces are duets with Running and pianist Hugo Fatturoso; father and son percussionists Hector and Arturo Prendez join in on a few others. Standout songs on this disc include a Latin arrangement of "Lover Man," where the Prendezes make their first appearance and Fatturoso scats along with the notes he's playing, á la George Benson, during his solo. "The Sun Died" is an aching ballad of loss which Running sings with palpable pain in her voice. "Star Dust," with its lengthy prelude and overall structure, fits Running's singing style like a glove. The final tune, Leon Russell's "A Song For You," is a mission statement, a confession, a tip of the cap to the listener, and a perfect end.
Running's primary influence is clearly Sarah Vaughan, and she uses the same sultriness in the lower register, though she's tremulous and slightly strident on the higher notes. Fattoruso is an outstanding pianist, his wordless vocalizing highlighting a few of the tunes. The Prendezes provide a solid pulse. Considering that they were operating without a net, the end result is quite good.
Occasionally Running doesn't quite hit a note; Fattoruso stumbles across the keys a couple of times; and voice and piano don't always mesh seamlessly. But if slick production values are absent from Time for Love, so is soporific languor. Running may not have the best voice around, but knowing how to interpret a song can count as much as a booming set of pipes. She was brave to have taken so much risk the first time out, but adventure and invention are the essence of jazz.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.