Kathleen Grace's soprano playfully flirts with and swoops around the melodies on her third album, Mirror, an entirely satisfying, if brief, set of songs that will draw comparisons for Grace to the great Nancy Wilson. Both singers offer voices that are rich, warm and elegant, bridging jazz and pop with effortless, um, grace.
A Los Angeles-based jazz singer and songwriter, Grace is a former Tucsonan. She celebrates the summer storms of her desert hometown in the form of the tune "Elijah," on which her voice turns smoky and melancholy while her band--especially guitarist Perry Smith and pianist Matt Politano--creates an ethereal backdrop.
In fact, on all of Grace's six original compositions, along with one cover, the musicians more than ably support her careful balance of pop sensibility, smooth jazz and Broadway-style melodic inventions. They help create a sound that feels both traditional and cutting-edge.
Grace's singing is smooth and articulate, not unlike that of contemporaries Tierney Sutton or Lisa Ekdahl, but she's also unafraid to tackle unconventional phrasing, such as on "Penny," which elides "new music," Kurt Weill and off-kilter circus music.
Grace and band close the album by taking on Randy Newman's bruised "Let Me Go," which combines antebellum Americana and insouciant blues. But her "Am I Enough Yet" is the album's highlight, a way-cool sliver of hip attitude that may remind some listeners of Les McCann's soul-jazz hit "Compared to What." The only weakness in that track (which is less than three minutes long) afflicts the album as a whole: There's not enough of it.