Randy Crawford / Joe Sample

No Regrets

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Randy Crawford and Joe Sample go back a long way; Crawford was featured on the Crusaders' 1979 hit "Street Life," a gem that held up pleasingly well 30 years later. And even though Crawford has generally been more of an R&B singer than a jazz singer, she is certainly quite capable of singing jazz -- which is what she does to a large degree on No Regret, a session Crawford co-leads with pianist Sample. It would be inaccurate to say that this 2009 release, which Sample produced with Tommy LiPuma, is the work of jazz purists. The musical recipe is jazz meets soul meets the blues -- in other words, soul-jazz -- and Crawford and Sample (who are joined by bassist Christian McBride and drummer Steve Gadd) enjoy a strong rapport on material that ranges from Memphis Slim's "Every Day I Have the Blues" and Clyde Otis' "This Bitter Earth" to the Staple Singers' "Respect Yourself" and Mel & Tim's "Starting All Over Again." There are some interesting surprises on No Regret; Crawford and Sample also tackle Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" with memorable results, and they even find the soul-jazz possibilities in Charles Dumont's Edith Piaf-associated "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien." That French classic, which was a major hit for Piaf in 1960, has a lot of history attached to it; it is considered Piaf's anthem (much like "My Way" was for Frank Sinatra), it has been adopted as an anthem by the French Foreign Legion -- and of course, it's a great song to crank when you want to give the middle finger to all the racist, wacky neo-cons who have an obsessive and downright irrational hatred of France (evidently, neo-cons forget where the Statue of Liberty came from). But Crawford doesn't try to emulate Piaf; she embraces an English-language version, and a song that came out of French pop works surprisingly well in a soul-jazz setting. No Regret is a consistently rewarding follow-up to Crawford and Sample's previous collaboration Feeling Good.

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