Mary Foster Conklin

Crazy Eyes

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The New York jazz press of the 1990s sometimes described Mary Foster Conklin as a "cabaret singer," but Crazy Eyes points to the fact that she's really more of a jazz-pop singer with occasional cabaret touches. The sort of campiness that has characterized a lot of cabaret recordings won't be found on this likable CD. Conklin is playful and entertaining on material ranging from "The Gentleman Is a Dope" to Duke Ellington's "I'm Gonna Go Fishin'" and Willie Dixon's "Dead Presidents," but she's not one to inundate us with the campy or the corny. Dexter Gordon's "Fried Bananas" (for which she embraces seldom heard lyrics by Anne Phillips) is outright bebop, and there's no denying that the piano trio backing Conklin (pianist Bill Mays, bassist Jon Burr and drummer Terry Clarke) is very much a jazz trio. One of the most interesting selections on Crazy Eyes is "How Can I Be Sure" -- originally a pop-rock hit for the Rascals in 1967, the tune gets an unlikely post-bop makeover. Generally decent and offering some pleasant surprises, Crazy Eyes indicated that Conklin was someone jazz fans should keep an eye on.

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