The always eclectic Maria Muldaur, whose previous albums have paid tribute to Shirley Temple and blues women of the '20s, takes another musical detour in this collection of songs associated with Peggy Lee. In addition to her cool, sexy, relaxed voice, Lee was arguably more talented than other vocalists from her era. As a songwriter she co-penned some of her own material, including the swinging "I'm Gonna Go Fishin'" with Duke Ellington, which features the witty double entendres that spice several other songs. Muldaur possesses a similar ability to purr ("Some Cats Know") or sizzle (an opening tour de force of "Fever" and "Black Coffee") without breaking a sweat. So this collection of 12 tracks, backed by a talented yet restrained eight-piece band, is a natural extension of her vocal strengths. The stylish, retro arrangements include vibes and big-band-styled horn charts that sound as authentic as if they were recorded in the '30s. Even though there are some finger-popping swing numbers (a zippy duet with Dan Hicks on Ted Shapiro's "Winter Weather" is especially peppy), a late-night, languid blues-jazz vibe dominates.
This is a wonderful four-disc collection of tracks from Peggy Lee's first solo stint with Capitol Records in the mid- to late-1940s, shortly after she left her spot as a singer with Benny Goodman's band in 1943, and her early sides for Decca Records, who signed her in 1952. While many would argue that her best work was done a decade later during her second go-round with Capitol, the selections here (many of them done with husband Dave Barbour and his orchestra) show an assured vocalist with a firm understanding of the pop side of jazz.
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