Katharine Whalen

Katharine Whalen's Jazz Squad

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Singer and banjoist Katharine Whalen is one of the founding members of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, the North Carolina-based retro band whose joyful fusion of raw jump blues and hot jazz has been one of the most unlikely success stories of the 1990s. On her solo debut, Whalen steps out a bit (though not entirely) from the shadow of Billie Holiday, whose nasal, declamatory style has been a huge influence on Whalen from the beginning. She sings "'Deed I Do" and "There Is No Greater Love" in a somewhat warmer, sexier voice than usual; same with the finger-popping "That Old Feeling" (which, strangely, sounds like it was faded out halfway through the track). But she delivers "Yesterdays" with what almost sounds like a tribute to Holiday's delivery of the classic and controversial "Strange Fruit." The program ends with a strutting, ska-inflected version of "My Baby Just Cares for Me." Derivative or not, Whalen is a gifted chanteuse and a wonderful interpreter. Highly recommended.

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