Jacintha

Autumn Leaves: The Songs of Johnny Mercer

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Nine of the 11 tracks here are ballads. Their uncluttered arrangements spotlight Jacintha's smooth and sensuous voice, while her expressive phrasing draws the most from the classic Johnny Mercer lyrics. Jacintha includes the original lyrics to "Autumn Leaves," done in soft and flawless French; otherwise, her primary innovation is to deliver the tunes straight and sincerely, with minimal improvisation and maximum tenderness. There's no trace of the customary bitterness in "One More for the Road," and her unaccompanied reading of "Moon River" liberates that song from any prior goopy associations. In fact, her version brings out the poignancy of the lyrics so purely that her additional chorus, coming after a rather wandering piano interlude, seems redundant. The band is good but pretty restrained throughout, supplying subtle commentary and close support, then breaks out nicely on the two up-tempo tracks: "And the Angels Sing" and "Something's Got to Give." Jacintha's measured, legato approach isn't very conducive to swinging, but listening to "Skylark"and "Midnight Sun," in particular, is like sipping cool champagne in a fragrant hot tub. Another highlight is the bonus track, "Here's to Life," a signature tune for Shirley Horn, which Jacintha takes at a slightly faster tempo. While it's not a Mercer lyric, its beautiful sentiments and melody fit nicely into this relaxed and intimate set. Whatever this CD may lack in fire, it makes up for in warmth.

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