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A Man and a Half

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Natalie Cole and Rickie Lee Jones aren’t the only vocalists finding inspiration on the outskirts of mainstream jazz. With her musky tone, taste for both funk and standards, and feisty way with a phrase, Cassandra Wilson is one of the most distinctive new singers on the block. Live, recorded in Germany with a lean, mean trio, affirms her role as successor to the gently eccentric legacy of her mentor Betty Carter. A-

Life is a neocabaret for Holly Cole, who slips into show tunes and offbeat covers in suave supper-club fashion. On Blame It on My Youth, Cole manages to mug for the microphone without slipping too far into camp. B

Joni Mitchell comparisons come cheap these days, and Santa Fe-based singer-songwriter Sara K. invites her share, but K. rises above the debt with her own spare sense of coolness. On Closer Than They Appear, K.’s bittersweet voice is nuzzled by Bruce Dunlap’s acoustic guitar and other understated jazz trappings, which help her songs glow and breathe. B

King and Moore — vocalist Nancy King and bassist Glen Moore — dare to be spare on Potato Radio. Additional players are sprinkled into the mix, but it retains a folk-jazz wit and an intimacy suitable for finer living rooms everywhere. B+

A Man and a Half
  • Music