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Album Review

Yaala Ballin is an Israeli jazz vocalist who emigrated to the U.S. to pursue her dream. Her debut recording is an impressive beginning, as Ballin clearly has both a sense of jazz history and the polish of a trained musician. Entering the studio with fellow New York-based musicians, including regulars on the Smalls label like saxophonist Chris Byars, pianist Sacha Perry, and bassist Ari Roland, these sessions sound more like a nightclub set without an audience, since she is performing live in the same space with them vs. in an isolation booth or via overdubbing on top of the finished tracks. Minimal reverb is utilized, producing music that is fresh, even though the songs are far older than the singer, who is in her mid-twenties. Her burnished alto voice shines in the breezy setting of "Love" (associated with Nat King Cole during his years as a popular singer), contrasting with her intimate reading of "The Gypsy," a piece all but ignored since Louis Armstrong sang it with his All-stars. Roland's walking bass provides the initial sole backing for her treatment of "I Only Have Eyes for You," while he later shows off his arco playing as Perry and drummer Keith Balla enter. Trumpeter Jerry Hahn adds some pep to Ballin's swinging setting of "The Best Thing for You." While Yaala Ballin's first offering isn't a groundbreaking effort, she shows plenty of potential with her solid interpretations of time-tested songs.

Travlin' Alone, Yaala Ballin
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