Luba Mason

Collage

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Anyone who wondered what good might ever come of Paul Simon's failed Broadway show The Capeman finds a glorious answer in this debut by Luba Mason, a classically trained veteran stage actress/singer who once starred in the Simon debacle. The show's colorful combination of Latin music, jazz, melody and poetry was a key catalyst for the beautiful marriage of elements that makes her debut an incredibly diverse, triumphant experience. Mason, a powerfully emotional song interpreter who stars with Val Kilmer in the stage presentation of The Ten Commandments, must have driven her marketing folks crazy with this hodgepodge of fascinating styles. She does a cool jazz swing thing with "Moondance," goes wildly Irish with the socially conscious Lou Reed-Rubén Blades tune "The Calm Before the Storm" and explores the subtlety of "Look of Love" in Spanish over a laid-back samba rhythm. That's just for starters -- she also finds unique ways to mine the classics of Johnny Nash (classical), Neil Diamond (folk-rock), the Sherman Brothers (Dixieland), George Harrison (new age) and Jerry Jeff Walker (blues). Add English and Slovak folk tunes (the latter an elegiac nod to her ethnic heritage) to the mix, and Mason could invent a new Grammy category: Best Joyfully Schizophrenic Album. Rubén Blades, who featured Mason on his 2003 Grammy winning CD Mundo, plays an ongoing creative role here, singing, playing maracas and percussion and co-writing with Elvis Costello the album's most beautiful piece, the heartbreaking "Shamed Into Love." Overall, Collage is a much-needed dose of uniqueness in an industry where bland pigeonholing is an art form in itself.

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