Brenda Russell

Between the Sun and the Moon

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Every handful of years, the soulful honey-voiced vocalist and brilliant songwriter puts out a solid adult-oriented collection with likable tunes that seek to equal the success of her oft-played classics "Piano in the Dark" and "Get Here" (popularized by Oleta Adams). Her Narada Jazz debut throws a few lush, emotionally resonant candidates in the ring, including the spiritually uplifting inspirations "The Message" and "Let Somebody Know," both of which go down easy and allow her to show off her emotional vocals. But Russell is most effective when she waxes exotic, as on the wildly percussive samba-flavored opener, "Make You Smile" (a Top Ten U.K. smooth jazz hit even before the album's release Stateside) and, even more delightfully, on the African-tinged title track. "Between the Sun and the Moon" begins with jungly soundscaping and a native choir accenting lyrics about what we may find in the shadows. Then guest star Patti Austin chimes in (or rather, rushes in with a joyful hurricane force) on some verses, and the tune builds on various vocal textures before exploding into a rolling uptempo fiesta, with Austin going wild, doing her Ella-like vocal scatting (trading fours with the choir). There's a late-night jazz edge on a few other tracks, and "It's a Jazz Day" pays loving and humorous homage to traditional cats and smooth jazz stars alike. A good overview of Russell's multitude of talents, this album will make her fans hungry for healthier doses of her world music grooving next time out.

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