Sofia Laiti

The Midnight Sun Will Never Set

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Houston Person is a superb musician -- a soulful tenor saxophonist with a big, attractive tone that isn't hard to recognize. Person has a track record, so when he produces an album, one wants to check it out. It was Person who, in 1995, produced Sofia Laiti's third album, The Midnight Sun Will Never Set, which the Finnish singer released on her own Midnight Sun label the following year. Person's presence is definitely a plus; in addition to providing his share of warm, soulful tenor solos, he helps guide a group of New York-based jazzmen that includes pianist James Weidman, bassist Essiet Essiet, and drummer Mark Johnson. But the main attraction is Laiti, who is undeniably expressive on standards that range from "For Heaven's Sake" to "But Beautiful" and "I Can't Believe That You're in Love With Me." Laiti -- who handles ballads and up-tempo material equally well -- is also appealing on Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind" (a gem that many other jazz singers wouldn't think to record), the title track (a Quincy Jones song), and the Peggy Lee hit "Fever." Like Lee's original '50s recording, Laiti's version of "Fever" is downright sexy. However, Laiti brings a charisma of her own to the song. Although Laiti sings with a Scandinavian accent, she is understandable -- and her accent proves to be a plus because it gives these performances a lot of character. All of the pieces fall into place nicely on The Midnight Sun Will Never Set, which is well worth searching for.

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