A GLANCE at the glossy cover and a cursory listen to the silky sounds of Nancy Wilson's LP "Forbidden Lover" might give the impression that Wilson's trying to tap into the lucrative jazz-pop-seducto-soul market recently reopened by Anita Baker and others.
But Wilson was tops on the boudoir-ballad beat before Baker was born, and that experience tells on "Forbidden Lover," Wilson's 50th LP and her first recorded in the U.S. in five years. When styling a pop song, Wilson draws on years of jazz singing, bringing a delicacy of phrasing, alighting briefly on a word or stretching syllables to light up a lyric. Though she's been singing for 35 years, Wilson is a vocal evergreen, and this attractive album sounds completely contemporary.
The songs, an even mix of upbeat numbers and dusky ballads, including a glowing cover of "A Song for You," are decidedly adult romantic pop, set in jazzy electronic environments by producer Kiyoshi Ito, who employs synths and other trendy instrumentation but keeps everything sounding elegant.
Washington's own Carl Anderson duets with Wilson on two songs, and it's an inspired, intimate pairing. Wilson's voice coils around Anderson's on the title track and on "Too Good to Be True," which has a gentle Brazilian lilt. And Branford Marsalis supplies the saxily insinuating tenor solos on "Deeper" and "What Will It Take This Time," giving Wilson another strong voice to play with.
NANCY WILSON -- "Forbidden Lover" (Columbia FC 40787). Appearing Saturday with Carl Anderson and the Blues Alley Big Band at Carter Barron Amphitheater.