Sweet Baby J'ai


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Evolution Review

by Scott Yanow

Sweet Baby J'ai is a storyteller who enjoys infusing her songs with tales that expand upon the original lyrics. On her second CD, she talks about the legendary Central Avenue scene during "Summertime" (although she is too young to have actually experienced it) and turns "Hit the Road, Jack" into a story about growing as a person faster than her former love. A flexible singer, J'ai has a distinctive and appealing voice. She is able to perform jazz standards, blues, and light R&B with equal skill. For this project, J'ai is joined by the talented (if greatly underrated) pianist Nate Morgan, either Trey Henry or Trevor Ware on bass, drummer Sherman Ferguson, Ronald Muldrow or Jamie Findlay on guitar, and several different horn players, including Carol Chaikin on reeds, trumpeter Oscar Brashear, and tenor saxophonist Teddy Edwards. Highlights include "Nature Boy," the blues "Hypnotized," "Autumn Leaves," and a jubilant "Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On." Some of the interpretations are a bit over-the-top (coming from the blues rather than jazz world), but this is fun party music that captures the feeling of Sweet Baby J'ai's spirited live shows.

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