Jazz singer/songwriter Halie Loren provides a well-rounded sense of her musical style on her first live album and third album overall, Stages. Although she does not play an instrument, she fronts a piano-dominated quartet featuring keyboard player Matt Treder (who also chimes in on vocals occasionally), bassist Mark Schneider, drummer Brian West, and trumpeter Tim McLaughlin. The combination of the prominent piano and Loren's supple alto voice inevitably suggests Diana Krall. But Loren has a somewhat lighter, less mannered sense of phrasing, and less of a hardcore jazz sensibility. Call her singing style Krall with a flavoring of the less serious side of Joni Mitchell, then. In addition to a few of her own songs (among them "Free to Be Loved by Me," co-written with songwriting veteran Rick Chudacoff), Loren addresses a range of material from traditional jazz fare like "The Girl from Ipanema" and "Summertime" to rock standards like the Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon" and U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." She brings up what may be her own female vocal heroines with "Ipanema" (Astrud Gilberto), "Cry Me a River" (Julie London), and a version of Patti Cathcart' (of Tuck & Patti) amusing "High Heel Blues," rendered a cappella. Her backup musicians are given most of the jazz duties, and while Loren employs enough unusual line readings to justify the "jazz" tag herself, it's her accompanists who really make this a jazz recording.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann