Earth and Heaven

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This was a very nice surprise indeed -- jazz-inflected R&B, soul and funk presented sunny side up, no apologies and no resorting to whatever passes for commercial pitches these days. Some folks will be reminded of Rufus (Chaka Khan's old outfit), and there's nothing wrong with that, either. This is cool, sexy soul that's pumped along by Genji Siraisi's clean drumming and Jonathan Maron's just-right bass work, led from the front by a nice vocal performance from Nicole Willis, who avoids being showy or shallow and instead turns in a heartfelt and enjoyable performance. Overall, an album that probably deserves far more of a promotional push than it's going to get -- and one that's worth its weight in platinum, which is what its sales ought to be.

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