Lisanne Lyons

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Lisanne Lyons has an impressive resumé. She's lead singer for the successful Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet, founded the award-winning New Virginians, is an Associate Professor of Music at Virginia Tech, and has appeared with numerous jazz luminaries. For her second CD, she joins with the John Toomey Trio for a program of mostly standards delivered with enthusiasm, exuberance, and energy, and no small amount of vocal skill. Lyons is out to garb these well-worn tunes with new contemporary clothes. No matter what she's performing, be prepared to hear it differently than it's usually played. Not that her interpretations are so far out as to make them hollow. But she tweaks the songs here and twists them there to give them a distinctive spin. "I Want to Be Happy," for example, opens with a slow piano introduction by Toomey, as Lyons rides in alternating regular lyrics with wordless vocalizing, adopting somewhat craggy rhythms along the way. Chip McNeill augments the trio on this cut with his sax. This song, as others, also gets a thorough and robust improvisational working over by the trio. The album is loaded with resourceful arrangements which put these tunes in a new light. The usual ballad presentation of "The Touch of Your Lips" is forsaken, replaced by a swinging, scatting sonata by Lyons, followed by a hard bop solo from McNeill, with Howard Curtis' drums making anything but demure percussive statements underneath. This track will get your attention. Similarly, "I Thought About You" is a lilting excursion into challenging syncopation by Lyons, and bassist Jimmy Masters as the singer takes some phrasing liberties with this standard classic. All in all, this album offers more than 50 minutes of sparkling, scintillating jazz singing and is recommended.