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Tianna Hall and the Mexico City Jazz Trio: Two for the Road

C. Michael Bailey By

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Tianna Hall's fifth recording, Two For The Road, and her first since Never Let Me Go (Blue Bamboo, 2011), continues to document the singer's evolution within the mainstream of jazz vocals. Thoroughly trained in the vocal arts at the University of Houston, Hall has progressively refined her smart and sexy delivery with each recording. Hall has achieved a vocal facility that is the equivalent of Lauren Bacall telling Humphrey Bogart how to whistle in the 1944 film To Have and Have Not: "You just put your lips together...and blow."

The combination of Hall with The Mexico City Jazz Trio, which also joined her on her 2007, self-produced Lost in the Stars, makes for a potent and swinging synergy that breathes new life into the standard repertoire. Hall shows she is the complete package on the opening "Til There Was You," where she sings with effortless and conversational confidence. The trio is sharp and precise, accenting Hall's vocal twists and turns. She turns her playful and smart sexiness on in her duet with saxophonist/vocalist David Caceres on Duke Ellington's "They Can't Take That Away from Me." Frank Loesser's "Baby, It's Cold Outside" deserves these two as singers. "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" and the title tune prove Hall's Swing ability at brisk and slow tempi.

Ever the surprise, Hall introduces three (relatively) recent compositions to her recorded repertoire. She makes Soundgarden's staple, "Black Hole Sun," sway as if scored by Antonio Carlos Jobim. Radiohead's "Creep" receives a stripped-down, emotive reading, with Hall singing sardonically in tandem with bassist Agustin Bernal's determined momentum. Hall fashions the piece in the mainstream jazz idiom effectively, demonstrating that even newer and more demanding compositions can provide the fuel for interpretation and improvisation.

Eric Stewart and 10cc's 1970s ballad, "I'm Not In Love," fits perfectly between "Good Morning Heartache" and "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter," while cleverly interpolating Miles Davis' "So What." The art of jazz vocals has a good keeper in Tianna Hall.

Track Listing: Til There Was You; What Is This Thing Called Love?; When October Goes; They Can't Take That Away from Me; Creep; You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To; Black Hole Sun; I've Never Been in Love Before; Good Morning Heartache; I'm Not in Love; I'm Gonna Sit Right Down & Write Myself a Letter; So in Love; Moon River.

Personnel: Tianna Hall: vocals; Miguel Villicana: piano; Agustin Bernal: bass; Gabriel Puentes: drums; David Caceres: vocals and saxophone (4); Mike Wheeler: guitar (4, 14); Lisa Vosdoganes: cello.

Title: Two for the Road | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Self Produced

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