Alexis Cole

Zingaro

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The third recording for jazz singer and world traveler Alexis Cole has her in an intimate setting, with no drummer, pianist, or horns. Guitar and bass supply the cozy backdrop and playmates for Cole to weave her romantic spell based on her flatted, unpretentious style. There's a certain familiarity to her individuality that is hard to pin down, perhaps somewhere between the cattiness of Nancy Wilson, the unrushed feeling of Sarah Vaughan or the coy cool of Cassandra Wilson. Choosing a bevy of standards, Cole makes you wish the room she is in was nearer to you, and acts as the sage twice her youthful years. Her siren, sweet, and slow version of "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You?" is pretty convincing, as is the expressive light samba version of "Over the Rainbow" and the sleek, slinky take of "God Bless the Child." Don't peg Cole as simply a torch singer, though, as she changes up "Stompin' at the Savoy," starting leisurely, speeding up gradually, and scatting a bit. She does the same thing to "Walkin'" beginning with a snippet of "Walkin' My Baby Back Home" and merging into the well-established lithe and skittering Richard Carpenter bop line. A bowed bass from Jeff Eckels and curious guitar by Ron Affif identify the title cut as a personal statement Cole enjoys turning heartbreakingly darker. Of the ten tracks, the Affif/Eckels tandem appears on eight, with the consistently delightful Affif a standout. Two other cuts are from a 2003 session with guitarist Saul Rubin and bassist Jon Roche including "Walkin'" and the short, lovable "Morning with You" exudes a smiling, satisfied, waking up in bed with someone special glow. As Cole's travels to distant lands influence her tune choices, this may be the last of her legitimate jazz recordings. For now it's a good representation of how she feels about standard fare, done her way.

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