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JAZZ ALBUM REVIEW : Artistry and Romance Fill Parris' 'Spring'

August 13, 1993|BILL KOHLHAASE

***, Rebecca Parris, "Spring" MusicMasters There's a strong romantic feel and a bit of pop-music appeal to singer Rebecca Parris' "Spring." Accessible melodies and the familiar sway of Brazilian rhythms combine to draw the listener in; Parris' extremely inviting tones--warm and just a bit husky--complete the seduction.

Without stylistic pretensions, her voice makes an intimate appeal whether on the soft-jazz numbers penned by Michael Franks ("Alone at Night," "Tell Me All About It") or on the more hypnotic outings with music written by Brazilian composer Dori Caymmi ("You'll Finally Understand" and the title tune).

There are times when the firmness of Parris' voice recall Abbey Lincoln before she lost control of her pitch, or the duskiness of later Flora Purim. But, for the most part, Parris is her own woman, bringing a bit of the dramatic to the lyrics, adding interest at times by staying just behind the beat, but always singing in direct tones with little embellishments.

To her credit, Parris presents the lyrics in ways that sound better than they read (they are included with the liner notes), taking such confusing passages as "I contemplate every way I'd like to rendezvous you," and fitting them into the context with subtle stylistic changes.

She's equally successful developing a lyric's imagery, as she does on "First Time on a Ferris Wheel." And when it comes time to swing, as on "You Look So Good," the vocalist is smart and punctual, letting the rhythm section carry the beat while her voice works on counterpoint to the beat.

Recorded in Los Angeles, the album features a blend of electric and acoustic instruments to add depth to the pieces, all pinned with discreet percussion work from Luis Conte.

Producer-guitarist John Chiodini and keyboardist George Mesterhazy, who's responsible for the orchestrations, combine to create an almost visual backdrop to the singer's stories.

Bassist Abraham Laboriel adds tasteful electric bass that never overshadows the often understated proceedings. And when Caymmi's voice and guitar are involved, the music takes on a special magic.

Records are rated on a scale of * (poor) to **** (excellent), with *** denoting a solid recommendation.

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