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In My Life

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Album Review

A singer inclined to perform covers of pop tunes as easily as jazz or Brazilian standards, Rondi Charleston displays a solid and mature voice that is built to soar while adopting melody lines without many frills or embellishments. At times she does sound similar to Carole King or Barbra Streisand in inflections or phrasing, while also trying to approach exoticism or the persona of a joyous lover. What is clear is that she sure knows how to pick backup musicians, with pianist and music director Bruce Barth, tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm, guitarist Adam Rogers, and drummer Clarence Penn joining in. A string section is employed on occasion, and bossa nova and samba tunes, American popular standards, and ballads are included, as well as two of her originals. A companion DVD recorded at Lincoln Center's Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola is included, and features most of the material programmed differently than the CD. Trading phrases and lines with the emerging vocal style of instrumentalist Frahm, Charleston easily swings and delicately frames "Shall We Dance," but goes a bit overboard with drama on the really slow "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered." Her limited range is best suited for her light bossa original "Ancient Steps," which clearly parallels "Waters of March"; the Peter Eldridge sting-laden arrangement of "Someone to Light Up My Life" (with help from flutist Hadar Noiberg); and the authentic jazz swing of the Frank Loesser evergreen "I Believe in You." The slow blues of Jimmy Rowles and Johnny Mercer's "Baby Don't You Quit Now" and a different arrangement of "I'm Old Fashioned" with mixed rhythm changes bring Charleston to her most believable comfort zone and her most inventive arena, respectively. Vibraphonist Erik Charleston adds some nice color on his cameos "Telescope" and "Ancient Steps," while the versatile Rogers (check out his discographical credits) plays excellent acoustic guitar throughout. The live DVD includes the bossa classic "No More Blues" and a video profile of Charleston while omitting "Ancient Steps," a cover of the Sting-penned ballad "Until," and Tony Levin's "Fragile as a Song," all three of which are featured on the CD portion. A credible singer on a recording that tends to be over-produced, Charleston has a style that fits into a predictable niche that many vocalists adopt but never fully explore. Hopefully, a heightened sense of adventure will crop up in her upcoming projects. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

In My Life, Rondi Charleston
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