Marya Lawrence

All the Way Back

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Influenced by Betty Carter and Sheila Jordan (among others), Marya Lawrence takes her share of chances on the promising, if a bit uneven All the Way Back. This post-bop/avant-garde release doesn't go out of its way to be accessible, and the singer (who is the daughter of alto saxman Arnie Lawrence) has an unusual voice that takes some getting used to. Like Von Freeman's oddly distinctive tone on the tenor sax and Marilyn Crispell's challenging pianism, Lawrence's singing is an acquired taste. But once you've acquired the taste, this CD has its rewards. You can hear Lawrence's potential on her abstract, quirky interpretations of "You're My Thrill" (which gets a strong Middle Eastern flavor), "Every Time We Say Goodbye," and Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing," as well as on angular originals like "Candles" and "Pebbles & Bam Bam" (a nice example of her scatting). As off-center as Lawrence can be, she isn't without a solid blues foundation; in fact, she brings plenty of bluesy, gospel-influenced grit to "Sweet Sorrow" and Holiday's "Now or Never." For those willing to accept Lawrence on her own terms, All the Way Back isn't perfect but has many assets.

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