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Haunted Heart

Hilary Kole

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Album Review

Sophistication is the prerequisite for New York City based Hilary Kole, who presents her initial foray into the female jazz singer sweepstakes with a program of immaculately performed standards. Kole possesses one of the cleanest, decipherable, lovely vocal instruments, whose admitted influence stems from Irene Kral and to a lesser degree Blossom Dearie, but even more directly the precision of Chris Connor, and a little bit of spunk from Anita O'Day. Kole is not at all a risk taker on the level of scat, vocalese, or interpolation, but she is rock-solid true to the original established forms of these tunes she loves. She's also picked guitarist and producer John Pizzarelli to assist, while her excellent backup trio is led by pianist Tedd Firth, a player who matches Kole's vocal precision and control with every step, phrase and inflection. When she sings songs like the two-minute swinger "It's Love," the classic "'Deed I Do," or the tune of confirmation "You For Me," she's completely convincing and emoting from her joyous heart. Bob Dorough's "Better Than Anything" rams home this feeling with an exclamation point via her extraordinary enunciation which seems natural, needing little practice. In her more refined moments, Kole interprets the regretful "Blackberry Winter" also playing piano, as if she's truly lived in loss, while the crystalline accompaniment of Firth tries to buoy her maudlin spirit during "What'll I Do?." One of the curveballs in her repertoire is the off-putting, bluesy, "St. James Infirmary" type Tom Waits tune "Old Boyfriends," because she's really gone beyond those relationships, yet they still linger. Oscar Brown, Jr. wrote "The Snake" about all men, but a wise Kole knows better than to abjectly condemn, but keeps her eyes wide open for their slimy tendencies. The approach to these well-worn songs is simple, and her sidemen, especially the minimal playing provided by Pizzarelli in a Freddie Green rhythmic tradition, serves her basic persona well. A beautiful woman in love with a voice to match, many of these tracks reflect the positive aspects of living life aside from the minimal heartbreak. She's moving on well past a haunted heart, and into a potentially satisfying career in music, no matter what her next direction might be. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Haunted Heart, Hilary Kole
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