The fact that Lisa Sokolov employs Indian tabla player Badal Roy on her first Laughing Horse album, Angel Rodeo, tells you a lot about the New York-based jazz singer. It tells you that she has an adventurous spirit, and that she is determined to do things her own way. Sokolov is hardly the first artist to feature Roy on one of her albums; pianist/keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith (just to give one example) worked with him in the 1970s. But it is safe to say that tabla drums are far from a traditional jazz instrument; many other jazz artists would never even dream of using an instrument that comes from India. On this post-bop/avant-garde effort, Roy's tablas sound perfectly natural alongside traditional jazz instruments like guitar, piano (played by Jim McNeely), and bass. And that speaks well of Sokolov, who takes many risks whether she is embracing original material or providing quirky, left-of-center interpretations of Stephen Sondheim's "Something's Coming," Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You," and Harold Arlen's "Ding Dong" (from The Wizard of Oz). Make no mistake: Sokolov isn't afraid to be eccentric -- Betty Carter is a strong influence -- but she's also very musical. And even though she can be quite self-indulgent at times, she always makes sense. There is always a method to Sokolov's madness. A highly promising debut, Angel Rodeo made it clear that Sokolov was someone fans of vocal jazz needed to keep a close eye on.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson