When jazz vocalist Jacqui Naylor sings Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" on her new live double CD, the phrase "Stop children, what's that sound" acquires a new layer of meaning.
Naylor performs the song while her band plays another, Joe Zawinul's soul jazz hit "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," and it's not the only time one of her "acoustic smashes" leaves listeners guessing. She sings "My Funny Valentine" over AC/DC's "Back in Black" and Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime" over Weather Report's "Birdland," and simultaneously serves up "Black Coffee" with Led Zeppelin's "Moby Dick."
Well, Naylor may be guilty of making a jazz album for people who don't like jazz, but she and pianist-arranger Art Khu are nonetheless a pair of shrewd interpreters. What's more, over the course of two dozen songs here, recorded at Yoshi's in Oakland, Calif., and New York's Birdland, Naylor proves that she doesn't need to indulge in her own brand of mix-mastering to demonstrate her worth. Her soulful and dusky alto reveals the influence of such role models as Billie Holiday and Nina Simone without overdoing it, and her songwriting is another plus. The original tunes here range from the comforting ("We'll Fly") and affectionate ("City by the Bay") to the barbed ("Don't Let the Bastard Get You Down").
Still, it's the familiar tunes that leave lingering impressions, not just the jazz ballads but also a torchy reprise of James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" and a saloon song rendering of "Me & Mr. Jones."
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing Monday at Blues Alley.