Jazz singers have a way of drawing attention to themselves with improvised flights or idiosyncratic twists. Not Rene Croan. For all her vocal finesse, this gifted, Richmond-based vocalist is more apt to draw you into a song, letting the words, the music, the mood hold sway.
A prime example of her winning ways is "It Might as Well Be Spring," the opening track on "Renaissance" and a tune that has inspired more than its share of over-the-top performances. Croan, though, manages to evoke the rush and blush of love and its giddy consequences without overdoing it. But if playing it cute doesn't appeal to her, Croan nevertheless likes to have fun -- for proof, check out her playful and spirited version of "Them There Eyes." She also has a knack for sustaining sultry or dreamy moods, as demonstrated by a lightly swinging "Come Love," an unusually slow and yearning arrangement of "Mr. Sandman," and a reprise of Dave Frishberg's classic ode to self-indulgence, "Peel Me a Grape." Elsewhere, Croan skillfully evokes the thrall of romantic obsession with "I Thought About You" and rekindles the sensuous allure of an old Antonio Carlos Jobim's musing. Indeed, her interpretation of Jobim's "Dindi" is typical of the album's subdued and yet soulful vocal pleasures.
Throughout the session her warm and supple voice is framed by a group of Virginia-based musicians who possess an agreeably light touch. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for this very promising jazz artist.
Appearing Monday at Blues Alley.
To hear a free Sound Bite from Rene Croan, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8124. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)