Esther Phillips

Jazz Moods: Hot

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Esther Phillips' volume in Legacy's Jazz Moods series is righteously subtitled as "Hot." The 11 tracks here are taken from her three Kudu recordings in the early to mid-'70s -- From a Whisper to a Scream, What a Diff'rence a Day Makes, and Black-Eyed Blues. Her chart-smashing cover of Gil Scott-Heron's "Home Is Where the Hatred Is" is here, as is her read of Eddie Floyd's "'Til My Back Ain't Got No Bone." Her funky take of "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes" is perhaps the most radical version of the song ever cut, and her reggae-drenched presentation of Bill Withers' "Use Me" is second only to the original. Likewise, her twist on "I Can Stand a Little Rain" adds depth and dimension to the tune, stretching it to the bluesy side of R&B. The late-night blues grind of her take on Ellington's "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good" takes a jazz standard and shape-shifts it into a modern-day lounge classic. In other words, this little compilation from a very short period in Phillips' career is solid, provocative, and -- for the money -- indispensable.

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