Nnenna Freelon


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Nnenna Freelon refuses to be pigeonholed into any one style of jazz, as she's always willing to perform songs from many different fields, often while taking them in unfamiliar directions. She's also blessed with a great voice and an innate ability to charm her audience, along with a superb band. These performances from a pair of concerts at the Kennedy Center have a lot to like within them. The two-faceted interpretation of the standard "All or Nothing at All" alternates between an exotic Latin setting and driving bop. Pianist Takana Miyamoto's bossa nova scoring of "Meaning of the Blues" and the humorous take of "If I Only Had a Brain" also work very well. But there are misfires, too. Johnny Green's timeless melody to "Body and Soul" is discarded in favor of a plodding, monotonous reggae arrangement. There's little to differentiate the poppish performance of "My Cherie Amour" from a typical pop performance. Far better is her slowed-down approach to another Stevie Wonder song, "Tears of a Clown," where Smokey Robinson's great lyrics can be better appreciated than even on his own hit rendition with the Temptations. For those who have yet to experience the phenomenal Nnenna Freelon in concert, this is the next best alternative.

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