Kelley Johnson

Music Is the Magic

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One of the finest jazz singers not only of those based in the Pacific Northwest but in the U.S., Kelley Johnson is in top form throughout this continually intriguing CD. Joined by an excellent rhythm section with either Geoffrey Keezer or John Hansen on piano and welcome guest spots for trumpeter Brian Lynch (who works very well with the singer) and altoist Steve Wilson, Johnson sounds quite happy throughout the set. At times her deep voice is reminiscent of Irene Kral and a little bit of Madeline Eastman, but mostly she sounds like herself. Her interpretations of such modernized songs as "Lucky to Be Me," "Tea for Two," and "Old Devil Moon" are fresh; her spoken word recitation on "The Celebration Place" is successful; and she even manages to revive "What the World Needs Now Is Love" as a slow ballad. "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" does not really work as a song sung by a female (even Abbey Lincoln should not have bothered), but that is a minor misstep. Kelley Johnson knows when to improvise and when the lyrics are worth embracing. She is a youthful but mature singer whose every recording deserves a close listen.

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