Clairdee

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No less than the illustrious Nancy Wilson has said of the soulful and jazzy force of interpretive nature called Clairdee, "In the tradition of all great vocalists, she infuses each song with her own unique style while always remaining true to the song itself." That dead-on assessment applies to her two studio albums on Declare Music, and extends to the new disc, a rich and multi-faceted live performance the singer did at Yoshi's in Oakland. Aside from creating a joyful hour of great vocal soul-jazz, Clairdee takes the opportunity to fill her growing fan base in on a wide multitude of influences, starting with Ruth Brown (a witty and sassy, sparsely arranged "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby"), Irving Berlin (a sensual reading of "Cheek to Cheek"), and "Summertime," done via a '70s aesthetic that pays as much homage to the Gershwins as Al Green and Donny Hathaway. She also bridges generations by tapping into her love for Betty Carter ("Do Something") as well as the lighthearted '60s hit "Sunny." The main highlight, however, is the lively, '60s jazz-spiced closer, "Alright, Okay, You Win," which all at once gives props to Count Basie, Joe Williams, Les McCann, and Eddie Harris by combining tunes presented at two historic jazz events -- the 1957 Newport Festival and the 1969 Montreux Jazz Festival. Clairdee and pianist Ken French's funky arrangement uses Harris' "Cold Duck Time" as a groove-based backdrop to introduce the main song, adding a unique depth to its original lyrics. This kind of cleverness is a rare find on any modern collection of vocal interpretations, and alone makes the album worth the price of admission.

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