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Rhythm & Views

Lisa Otey

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Tucson music fans have heard pianist and singer Lisa Otey play in various different musical contexts. On her sixth CD, she tackles the jazz piano trio format, with astonishing results.

Collaborating with Dutch bassist Harm van Sleen and French drummer Fabrice Bessouat, Otey has created a rich recording on which her expertise in blues, gospel and boogie woogie constitute the foundation for a exploration of straight-up jazz styles both intimate and expansive.

From standards by Cole Porter and Fats Waller to surprisingly authentic originals by van Sleen, these 11 tracks are infused with a playful balance of creativity and technical ability, not to ignore the preternatural chemistry among the three players. They touch on urbane penthouse jazz, dance-hall vibrancy, supper-club smoothness, tortured torch songs and even a little French café and Western music.

Van Sleen wins MVP, slyly introducing motifs from "Drive My Car" and "On Broadway" during "Night and Day," playing occasional dobro and turning in the charming "Gossip," which might as well as be a standard pop tune from a 1940s musical.

Otey is a formidable vocalist, too. She inhabits the lyrics, even when "My Funny Valentine" takes a surprisingly delightful turn into Latin disco. On her rendition of "Honeysuckle Rose," sensuality virtually oozes from the speakers.

When Otey sings the slow-burner "At Last" (one of two live tracks recorded during a concert at Westward Look Resort), you can believe she's feeling the passion to which the song alludes. What starts out as a soulful vocal performance evolves into an amazing 13-minute series of asides and improvisations by the trio. It can only be called bravura.

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