Various Artists

It's About Love

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All too often, straight-ahead jazz has, in recent decades, been a victim of terrible marketing. Trying to give jazz snob appeal doesn't work -- it merely ghettoizes and segregates the music -- and those going around calling jazz "America's classical music" only further the misconception that it can only appeal to a small group of intellectuals. Occasionally, a straight-ahead jazz artist is marketed brilliantly; Diana Krall has managed to connect with pop culture even though she isn't a pop singer. But she's the exception instead of the rule. Regrettably, elitists in the jazz world usually turn their noses up when labels release "jazz for lovers" collections, but if such collections can reach those who have only a casual interest in jazz, then why not? Released in early 2001, It's About Love is a nicely assembled compilation that uses the "jazz for lovers" concept to draw attention to Arkadia Jazz's catalog. As one might expect, ballads are dominant. Highlights of the CD, which spans 1996-1999, include Benny Golson performing Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo," Randy Brecker performing "My Funny Valentine," and singer Mary Pearson performing "The More I See You." Even soprano saxman Dave Liebman, who is no stranger to avant-garde jazz and outside improvisation, gets romantic, interpreting Billy Eckstine's "I Want to Talk About You." Not all of the songs are old standards from the 1930s and 1940s; Talib Kibwe's "It's Really All About Love" and pianist Uli Lenz's "A Perfect Couple" are original pieces, and "My Cherie Amour" (which pianist Joanne Brackeen interprets) was one of Stevie Wonder's major hits in the 1960s. This CD isn't challenging, but then, Arkadia never claimed that it was. It's About Love is exactly what it's supposed to be: an enjoyable collection of acoustic mood music.

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