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Maple Groove

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Album Review

The always swinging singer Ranee Lee chose to create a songbook of works written by Canadian composers and/or lyricists for this release, including some fare not typically covered in a jazz setting. Folksinger Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind" works surprisingly well in an uptempo hard bop setting, while rocker Bruce Cockburn's "My Beat" is given a funky treatment. Less successful is a bossa nova arrangement of the Guess Who's "Undun," which collapses due to its vapid lyrics, while the strutting take of Blood, Sweat & Tears' "Spinning Wheel" goes off track due to the addition of a dumb rap by Darrell Henegan Jr. However, the standards and jazz compositions are consistently rewarding. She soars with a brisk rendition of Bill Evans' timeless ballad "Waltz for Debby" (with lyrics by Canada native Gene Lees), while the McGill Students Vocal Ensemble invite comparisons to the Singers Unlimited with their backing of Lee in the amazing a cappella version of Oscar Peterson's "Hymn to Freedom." Her lighthearted take of "Swinging Shepherd Blues" includes a bit of playful scatting and singing in unison with guitarist Richard Ring. She packs an emotional punch with her powerful interpretation of "Maybe September." Lee is in consistently fine voice throughout the date, which is warmly recommended.


Born: 26 October 1942 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Although born and raised in Brooklyn, Ranee Lee has lived in Montreal for most of her adult life, and she is best-known for her fine recordings for the Canadian Justin Time label. Lee performed as a singer while in high school, toured the U.S. with a local group, and, after she moved to Canada, she starred in the play Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill. The influences of Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington can be felt at times in her singing, but Ranee Lee also has her own sound. A measure of her...
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Maple Groove, Ranee Lee
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