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Gabrielle Goodman
Until We Love
JMT/Verve Records

As legends Shirley Horn, Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln and the like continue to refine the art of jazz singing, the inevitable question remains: where is the next generation of female jazz vocalists? The resulting discussion shouldn't continue without evaluating the talents of Gabrielle Goodman. This classically trained chanteuse has done background stints with Nancy Wilson, Chaka Khan and Roberta Flack. Resume aside, her mastery of multiple music genres is apparently inbred -- her mother is a classical singer, her father a jazz trombonist. Goodman's second album, Until We Love, moves jazz forward as an art form and shows a nice progression from her exquisite (and underrated) debut, Travelin' Light, released last year.

In addition to a top-flight group of young musicians (bassist Christian McBride, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, keyboardist/guitarist Lucky Peterson and guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel are among the lineup), the album highlights Goodman's emotion-filled vocals. She is blessed with a sensual instrument that is more inviting than those of comparable Young Jazz Divas Vanessa Rubin and Nnenna Freelon. Until We Love also makes excellent use of the jazz combo setting; you immediately get the feeling that this is music best enjoyed in an intimate atmosphere.

While most jazz albums rely on standards to tell a story, Goodman's interpretations push the listener to another level. Her cover of Bob Telson's underground classic "Calling You" draws you in with a soft, purring vocal and smooth acoustic instrumentation. With David Bunn's impressive piano behind her, she begins pop chestnut "On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)" as a rousing gospel tune and midway through makes a seamless transition to a mid-tempo jazz stride. Goodman's three original compositions also deserve attention. These include the modern-day cautionary title track, the lush "September in New York" and the tender "Sorry to Say Goodbye."

-- Marlynn Snyder

Christian McBride
Gettin' to It
Verve Records

Enough already with the constant talk of how the "young lions" have breathed new life into jazz. As a uniquely American (make that African-American) creation, jazz always deserves attention. It would be nice, however, if the reason for the attention was admiration of one's talent instead of constant musings about one's age. In the area of talent, bassist Christian McBride is deserving of all the attention he's currently getting.

After more than 70 recordings as a sideman for some of jazz's heaviest hitters, the 22-year-old Philadelphia native makes his debut as a leader with Gettin' to It (the jammin' title track is a tribute to McBride's idol, James Brown). McBride uses his debut as an opportunity to jam with other up-and-coming colleagues -- including trumpeter Roy Hargrove, saxophonist Joshua Redman, pianist Cyrus Chestnut and percussionist Steve Turre -- who have also been branded as young lions by an overzealous music press.

McBride's talent lies in his open and accessible playing style; his smart, studied grooves appeal to hip-hop kids and lovers of jazz standards. Gettin' to It highlights his abilities both as a soloist and an accompanist, and the contributing musicians he's chosen add to the album's sophistication. On the dreamy "Sitting on a Cloud," Hargrove's breezy flYgelhorn caresses the ear, inspiring love way past Valentine's Day. Redman and Chestnut offer up their take on smooth jazz sensuality on the wonderful "Black Moon." Another ripe track, "Splanky," a spunky bass trio workout that pairs McBride with legends Ray Brown and Milt Hinton, confirms why the three are probably among the most sought-after session bassists working today.

-- M.S.

George Duke
Illusions
Warner Bros.

Creative output doesn't seem to be a problem for George Duke, who continues to wear several different music-related hats: bandleader, vocalist, arranger, Grammy-winning producer, songwriter and solo artist. Over the course of a long career (he became a solo artist in 1976), he has cultivated close relationships in many areas of the music spectrum. Illusions, his latest release, presents yet another opportunity for Duke to indulge his passion for R&B-laced contemporary jazz. And he doesn't come to the party alone; several members of his extended musical family make appearances, including revered jazz/pop vocalist Dianne Reeves, sax man/bodybuilder Everette Harp, percussionist Paulinho Da Costa and Houston-born saxophonist Kirk Whalum.

Known primarily as an instrumentalist for most of his career, Duke gives Illusions more of a vocal presence. Although he supplies the lead vocal on most tracks, Duke also makes use of an all-star cast of urban music vocalists. "Life and Times" is a riveting up-tempo observation of the current evils of urban society. The track features a stellar choir of R&B's bright lights: the Emotions, Perri, Take 6's Mervyn Warren, James Ingram and Rachelle Ferrell, to name a few. The album even includes a bit of black history (gotta love Warner's marketing department for releasing Illusions in February, during Black History Month). "Buffalo Soldiers" uses a down-tempo groove to back a short narrative about black Civil War soldiers -- former slaves -- who helped to settle the American West.

Duke's contemporary musical leanings run the gamut from soft, romantic tunes ("Look What We Started Now") to the down-to-earth funkiness of "411," an improvisational track with multiple female vocalists verbalizing their thoughts and feelings as they check out the same guy in a club. Not to be missed is the album's strongest cut, "So I'll Pretend," a stylish ballad featuring Reeves and Whalum, which examines the memories two ex-lovers share of their past relationship.

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