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In an age where the newer female jazz singers tend to be little more than popsters in masquerade, Laird Jackson comes across as a pleasant surprise. Here is a singer who has the sensibilities, the attitude and the approach that do not dilute the essence of jazz.
Jackson has been on hiatus since 1994, and her debut album Quiet Flame as she was apparently in the process of maturation as a songwriter and also wanted to record songs that she really liked. The wait has certainly paid off; she comes up trumps on both counts.
Laird’s sense of style is witnessed in the many moods of her compositions. The title song is starkly effective, just her voice and an acoustic guitar making their impact. On the other end of the scale is the lilting, swaying “Take A Little Walk’, where her phrasing is key to the sparkle. The presence of a spiritual in the stunning a cappella “Yet Still” serves to underscore her versatility.
Laird includes pop songs by Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers and sings them well enough within a jazz ambit, but it is the Kurt Weill and Langston Hughes composition “Lonely House” that cements her reputation as a fine interpreter of song. Laird is a welcome addition to the spirit of jazz.