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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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The Live Smoke Sessions

Warner 514429869-2



1. Down With Love
2. Why Don't You Do Right?
3. Miss Otis Regrets
4. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
5. Come Rain or Come Shine
6. Love Me or Leave Me
7. Love for Sale
8. Night and Day
9. Puff (Intro)
10. Puff
11. You Don't Know What Love Is
12. Jumpin' With Symphony Sid
Lea DeLaria - Vocals
Gil Goldstein - Piano
Mary Ann McSweeney - Bass
Josh Giunta - Drums
Seamus Blake - Tenor sax (tracks 2, 4)
Ian Shaw- Vocals (tracks 10, 12)

Last year I enthused about the CD The Very Best of Lea DeLaria, which consisted of studio recordings. I think this is Lea DeLaria's first "live" jazz album and it's a disappointment. In an interview, Lea said "I don't like to play it safe". The choice of material might be described as safe, since most of it comes from the very familiar Great American Songbook, including plenty of songs by such composers as Cole Porter and Harold Arlen. But Lea's singing is far from safe or secure: she often cannot stay in tune, as well as getting some song lyrics wrong.

Lea's voice is certainly a forceful instrument but not particularly beautiful. She says in her liner notes: "I am not now nor have I ever been a pretty girl with a pretty voice". In fact she can sound hectoring and over-emphatic. The audience at the Smoke jazz club in Manhattan seemed to love her, but she comes across as a cabaret entertainer rather than a serious jazz vocalist - mainly because she pays too little attention to important details like intonation and lyrics. She belts out many of the songs with little subtlety. The very slow version of Come Rain or Come Shine might strike the listener as sensitive and even impressive (as she displays a wide vocal range, descending to a very deep part of her voice) but she seems uncertain of the words. Her version of Cole Porter's Love for Sale gets several lyrics wrong.

When she tries scat-singing, as she does on several tracks, she sings carelessly and races ahead of her accompanists. In fact the accompanying trio tends to redeem her faults, since they play superbly. Gil Goldstein supplies some excellent piano solos (notably on Night and Day), and drummer Josh Giunta provides an exciting introduction to Miss Otis Regrets, accompanying Lea without additional help for the first measure. Seamus Blake's tenor sax adds class to the two tracks he appears on, although Ian Shaw's vocals are a mannered pain rather than a pleasure.

This is only the third out-and-out jazz album that Lea DeLaria has recorded but she is, after all, involved in various other fields, like acting and stand-up comedy. Don't give up the other jobs, Lea.
Tony Augarde




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