Lauren White

At Last

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Lauren White is one of a seemingly increasing number of vocalists attempting to follow in the footsteps of the highly successful vocalist Norah Jones. Though White has got some jazz chops and a pleasing voice, her debut CD is rather inconsistent, covering standards, pop songs, country and originals. The best tracks feature her with pianist Bill Cunliffe (who knows a thing or two about accompanying singers), while bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Mark Ferber lay a solid foundation throughout the album. "My One and Only" is not one of the Gershwin brothers' well known tunes, but White makes the most of this slinky opener. She doesn't seem to appreciate the humor in "Mack the Knife" as much as Ella Fitzgerald, so it comes off a little tame. Better is the unusual setting of "My Funny Valentine," sung with a sense of drama and adding a lush solo by tenor saxophonist Rickey Woodard. But then problems start to appear. Guitarist Anthony Wilson's dreary arrangement of Cole Porter's "Love for Sale" and Joe Bagg's lackluster organ do absolutely nothing for this normally delightful song, while the slow tempo makes the nearly seven minute performance seem like an eternity. The biggest mistake is tackling songs too closely associated with singers outside of jazz, then approaching them in a fashion that's too similar. "Blue Bayou" was a hit for Linda Ronstadt, while the late Karen Carpenter had a smash with Leon Russell's "Superstar," but neither of them is a convincing vehicle on what is supposed to be a jazz vocalist's date. Woodard is back for country singer Lee Ann Womack's "Why They Call It Falling," which sounds like something Norah Jones might perform, but the melody just isn't memorable. White's three originals are airplay friendly but not distinctive. In order to succeed as a recording artist, White is going to have to make some tough choices about her direction rather than the scattershot approach on her debut CD. Even her press bio accompanying the disc displays a degree of naïveté, listing Natalie Cole and Michael Bublé as among the "jazz" artists who have inspired her, something that just won't cut the mustard with seasoned jazz listeners.

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