Carla Cook

It's All About Love

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Vocalist Cook took a beeline from her native Detroit to Boston, where she received a degree in speech communications, then to N.Y.C. She's influenced by the gospel and Motown music of her home, as well as jazz. Using an expressive, wide-ranging, utterly clear voice, Cook is also unafraid to scat as she does on several of these selections, sometimes in between lyrics. She's a warm, soulful singer, easy to enjoy and well aware of her capabilities, of which show a nice diversity, and the maturity of a more seasoned professional.

Cook's musical assets are greatly enhanced by the presence of pianist Cyrus Chestnut on eight of the 11 tracks. He truly can do it all, taking liberties with the song form on the Count Basie/Joe Williams evergreen "Corner Pocket," digging deep into soulful resources in tandem with percussionist Jeffrey Haynes for the spiritually oriented "Hold to God's Unchanging Hand," listening intently and responding to Cook and violinist Regina Carter during the heart melting "September Song," or simply laying out a lustrous melody as on "These Foolish Things." Andy Milne also plays piano on three selections, but is especially poignant as an arranger for Neil Young's "Heart of Gold," a midnight blue approach that is a stark contrast to the harmonica-spiked cowboy mentality of the original -- quite a showstopper. Cook's funkier persona is on the toned-down side as opposed to P-Funk; her "Inner City Blues" has an economical scat line sprinkled on top of the classic lyric. She wrote the pop blues title track and a samba-inflected "Can This Be Love?," Carter again accenting on violin. There are two versions of the standard "The Way You Look Tonight," one a bonus CD-ROM video track, the strictly audio version a vocal-bass intro that allows Cook flights of fancy that show how she's got it going on from a pure improvisers standpoint. She also does Milton Nascimento's "Salt Song" and, with Milne, a wonderful version of the patient Rodgers & Hart show tune "Where or When." This debut shows much promise, and though the theme in the title would suggest it, these are not all sappy torch songs. Her abilities are impressive, certainly enough to warrant the notion that this is a career in the making for Cook, and not a hobby. Recommended.

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