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MELODY GARDOT "Worrisome Heart" Verve

Friday, August 15, 2008

MELODY GARDOT"Worrisome Heart"Verve

JONI MITCHELL and Cassandra Wilson paved the way for Norah Jones, and Jones opened the door for a whole generation of young women who are combining the elastic phrasing and harmonic sophistication of jazz with the personal lyrics of singer-songwriter folk. One of the best of these newcomers is Melody Gardot, a 23-year-old singer-pianist-guitarist from New Jersey whose debut album, "Worrisome Heart," is finally getting national distribution. It has attracted so much attention that Larry Klein, Mitchell's longtime producer, is working with Gardot on her second album.

The title track of her first album showcases her breathy mezzo framed by the tinkling piano and muted trumpet of retro jazz. The lyrics for this slow blues song, however, wonder how she'll ever attract a lover with her troubled mind and worrisome heart -- the kind of introspection associated with folk songwriters. Gardot then shifts gears for the finger-snapping beat, lilting tune, scat solo and battle-of-the-sexes gibes on "All That I Need Is Love," with the biting humor of Nellie McKay.

Melancholy or irreverent, Gardot's vocals fit snugly into the understated jazz arrangements. But what really sells these songs are the juicy melodies. If the chorus hook of her "Sweet Memory" reminds one of Carole King's "Sweet Seasons," that's just a measure of the high standard she meets on all of her originals.

-- Geoffrey Himes

Appearing Sunday at the Birchmere with Phil Roy (703-549-7500,http://www.birchmere.com). Show starts at 7:30 p.m.

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