Halie Loren conceives a new style of jazz singer on her fourth album, After Dark. While the lively alto is not averse to putting her own stamp on evergreens like "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "In a Sentimental Mood," her conception also extends to songs borrowed from various branches of the pop/rock era including folk-rock singer/songwriters (Tracy Chapman's "Give Me One Reason" and Joni Mitchell's "Carey"), pop/R&B (Stevie Wonder's "Happier Than the Morning Sun"), and country-pop (Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe"). She is also willing to take on material closely associated with notable interpreters (Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Waters of March," Edith Piaf's "La Vie en Rose"), and to mix in the occasional composition of her own. The package is not as eclectic as all that might make it seem, since Loren sticks to one of two sets of backup musicians, either cutting in her own studio in Eugene, Oregon, with her stage trio (pianist Matt Treder, bassist Mark Schneider, and percussionist Brian West) or outside Nashville with such noted local jazzers as guitarist Jack Jezzro and bassist Jim Ferguson. They find the jazz feel in such seemingly unlikely material as "Ode to Billie Joe," given a bass/drums accompaniment with some sax work by Bryan Cumming, and "Give Me One Reason," which actually is simple enough to provide a platform for improvisation. Throughout, Loren sings with a light touch, even when she's dipping into Portuguese, French, or Italian. When she takes on the classical crossover standard "Time to Say Goodbye," the nominal closing song ("Carey" is billed as a "bonus track"), it has none of the histrionics applied by the likes of Andrea Bocelli. Loren and her musicians never lose sight of their duty to entertain, and that keeps this lengthy, varied set floating along to its conclusion.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann