Night Flight

Phyllis Battle

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Night Flight Review

by Dave Nathan

Phyllis Battle is a member of the reincarnated version of the 5th Dimension, the group that had million-record sellers and won Grammy awards in the late '60s and early '70s when Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. drove the group. Battle has been singing since she was four. But it was at the Apollo Theater on amateur night where she made it as a finalist. She was asked to join the 5th Dimension while working for a Los Angeles law firm. Her good fortune continues as she is backed on this CD by an all-star trio of Cedar Walton, Billy Higgins, and Tony Dumas, while offering a program of mostly standards. Battle has a terrific voice with exceptional range and diction. The problem is that perhaps she has been singing too long with a group that specializes in pop and pop-soul material. On some cuts (e.g., "Midnight Sun"), she seems out of sync with her trio. On others, such as "Body and Soul," she is simply trying too hard, needing to relax and let the music come to her. She is much more successful with "Lush Life," which is susceptible to a rendition with a bit of the soul attached. Walton works hard to make sure that the singer has solid support to let loose her intensity on this Billy Strayhorn hard-to-sing classic. Similarly, "Imagination" allows Battle to do some different things with her phrasing, providing a rather enjoyable off-center inspection that would fit right in with the 5th Dimension scenario. "You Don't Know What Love Is" is the platform for call and response between Battle's scatting and Higgins' drums. The makings of an exceptional jazz singer are all present here. They just need a bit more maturing.

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