Lisa Lauren

My Own Twist

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For all the hype in 2002 surrounding jazz hybrid vocalist Norah Jones, she can't really hold a candle to the far superior, multi-faceted Lauren, an indie artist from Chicago who artfully blends pop and jazz influences with a dash or two of country and worldbeat. So it's promotion that's missing. Or is it the narrow play lists of adult contemporary and smooth jazz stations which would rather stick with tried-and-trues and Mariah Carey and Sade instead of allowing new voices in the mix? Lauren went Beatles-happy on her previous CD, and here does a cool jazz seduction with "Here Comes the Sun," also playing an elegant, purposeful piano line that challenges Fareed Haque's strumming guitar and Jim Gailloreto's silky soprano sax to keep up. More high-profile sax contributions come from none other than David Sanborn on the sassy, Steely Dan-inspired "A Shame," whose lyrics brim with attitude and wistful energy; Lauren sounds a bit like Marilyn Scott on this tune, and that's a compliment. Fellow Chicagoan and smooth jazz guy Steve Cole offers a tender soprano line behind one of Lauren's more romantic moments on "A Little Romance." "Life Goes On" is designed as a quartet piece, with soft, seductive drum brushes easing past a tender-hearted delivery of a lyric pondering love's mysteries. Lauren sometimes runs the risk of being overshadowed by her high-profile personnel, such as on this tune, where Fareed Haque's credit reads "homage to Pat Metheny." In the end, though, she more than holds her own. Lauren's a strong vocalist and honest songwriter, but she's also aces with cover tunes, making old songs like Carole King's "Sweet Seasons" sound fresh via colorful arrangements (this one with harmonica-laced country seasoning).

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