Chicago-based Kirsten Gustafson's first album for Atlantic Jazz has a play list of standards and jazz tunes, with a piece by rock/country icon Lionel Richie thrown in, all designed to spotlight her vocal agility. Although she is very expressive on such ballads as "Angel Eyes," Gustafson is also very much at home with the up-tempo numbers. Bouncing along with infectious rhythm with a tinge of the blues, she gives well-used standards like "Too Marvelous for Words" and "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby" a fresh perspective as she takes full advantage of new look arrangements by Frank Mantooth. Mantooth was nominated for a Grammy for his arranging work on this album. One of the top tracks is Gustafson's take on a tune co-composed and favored by Billie Holiday, "Now or Never." This cut features fine ensemble work and a rowdy sax solo by Greg Fishman. The singer has a group of distinguished Chicago musicians with her in the studio. One of the more arresting cuts features the ghostly cello of Larry Gray on a haunting recitation of "In the Beginning." Gustafson's more than normal range, her impeccable sense of timing, combined with the manner in which she plays with the beat makes this CD a must-buy for
jazz vocal fans. Sammy Cahn, who wrote the title tune, also prepared the liner notes.