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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Concord CJA 31316-02



1. The Lamp Is Low
2. I Feel Pretty
3. The Very Thought of You
4. Theme from Valley of the Dolls
5. Smile
6. You and the Night and the Music
7. Cell Phone Blues
8. Get Out of Town
9. Skylark
10. Lift Every Voice and Sing
11. America the Beautiful

Nnenna Freelon - Vocals
Brandon McCune Piano, Rhodes
Wayne Batchelor - Bass
Kinah Ayah - Drums (tracks 1-8, 10, 11)
Beverly Botsford - Percussion (tracks 1-8, 10, 11)
Ray Codrington - Flugelhorn (track 2)
Ira Wiggins - Tenor sax (track 3)
Scott Sawyer - Guitar (tracks 4, 6, 8)
John Brown - Acoustic bass (track 9)
Pierce Freelon - Rap vocal (track 10)
Timothy Holley - Cello (track 10)


The playlist makes this album look like another collection consisting mainly of standards from the Great American Songbook. Certainly songs like The Very Thought of You and Skylark have been performed over and over again. Yet Nnenna Freelon makes them fresh with judicious arrangements and her way of turning a song around so that it sounds like new. Every song has been thought about and given a distinctive flavour. And Freelon is singing here mainly with her regular band, so they have worked out many of these songs on tour.

For example, I Feel Pretty (from the musical West Side Story) starts off with the feel of a jazz waltz but moves into swinging four-four for Freelon's vocal, with the tempo suspended in the middle eight for added effect. Ray Codrington supplies a resourceful flugelhorn solo. Nnenna delivers The Very Thought of You as a pensive ballad.

Theme from Valley of the Dolls (surprisingly composed by André Previn) is presented as a gentle bossa nova, while Smile is given a hint of Latin before breaking into up-tempo for the piano solo. Nenna herself wrote Cell Phone Blues, which is just like one of those songs filled with double entendres that blues singers used to fool the censors with. Get Out of Town is given an unexpected reggae feel, and Skylark uses Wayne Batchelor and John Brown on acoustic basses as the sole accompanists (although they are not very helpful in suggesting the harmonies to Nnenna).

Nnenna really uses her voice to the full, swooping high and low, shaking notes subtly and varying her tone with such devices as vibrato. And the backing musicians serve her extremely well. She ends the CD with two anthems of freedom and pride. She can certainly be proud of this album.

Tony Augarde

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