Don't you just love my titles? Okay, maybe not all of them, but this one's a goody, I think. Here's why...
A couple of Fridays ago, I had friends over for dinner. Dr Lala was in town, so I invited my friend (and Dr Lala's ex-beau) The Legislative Fellow and his wife, The MIG (Meat is Good). We had what is referred to as "Taco Night." All the fixin's for yummy tacos, including ground chicken drenched in chopped jalepenos, Penzey's taco seasoning, and the juice from half a lime for brightness...
After we stuffed ourselves with all things taco, we cleared the table, loaded the dishwasher, made tea, and broke out Apples-to-Apples. As background music, we first put on Norah Jones' newest album Not Too Late. After we enjoyed that, I put on Madeleine Peyroux's (pronounced "Peru") The Perfect World and we enjoyed smoky, lounge music. After the last notes of Madeleine had faded, I traipsed upstairs (can you do that on stairs? Traipse? Climb probably would have been more appropriate and accurate. Oh well...) As I was saying, I traipsed upstairs and retreived Pink Martini's Hang On Little Tomato.
If you like Norah Jones, hopefully you've checked out her latest. Not Too Late once again features Jones' warm vocals with a twist of jazz thrown in for deeper layering and texture. Of her three albums, I have to say, there's a lot about this one I like as much, if not more, than her previous two albums.
"Not Too Late" showcases Jones' songwriting talents and brings out a rawness that you feel in every note she sings. Whether it's "Sinkin' Soon" with its sassy, wailing sax and stylization a la Louis Armstrong or "My Dear Country" in which Jones expresses her frustrations with the current state of political affairs in America, this album is equals parts edgy and warm.
Moving from Norah Jones, we then listened to Madeleine Peyroux. A native of Georgia, Peyroux was recently featured on NPR's Morning Edition. She has been compared to Billie Holiday and her ability to convey sultry is certainly not to be questioned. There is a clarity to her smoky voice that makes listening to her akin to savoring fine, silky chocolate under low lights with close friends.
Her album, The Perfect World, calls to mind all of the elements that are so enjoyable about older music--good lyrics, good rhythm, good instrumentals. Peyroux has fun with her music as manifest in "Blue Alert" and "A Little Bit." She also does a lovely version of "River," as well. Other favorites on this album include "I'm All Right" and "Once in a While." The latter flows like a slow, meandering stream. All in all, one of my favorite new albums.
Pink Martini's Hang On Little Tomato was the album that ultimately rocked the night, though. This album gives you a little bit of everything that makes good music great. At times, it's jazz. Then it's cinema. A switch again and it's Latin. And then again, it's cabaret. It's like a seven course repast--at times sweet and racuous and fun, then mellow and candlelit.
A product of the People's Republic of Portland, Oregon, Pink Martini utilizes its mix of genres confidently and adeptly. This album had us tapping our feet and, by the end of the evening, we were dancing around the kitchen and dining room in modified Latin fashion. Hang On Little Tomato will provide you a feast that will leave you not only sated, but wanting a second helping or a doggie bag. (The MIG took my copy of HLT home on loan. No doubt, she's been enjoying seconds for the last couple of weeks! And Dr Lala went to Borders the next day and bought this album, as well as PM's Sympathique.)
If you're looking for the perfect Valentine's gift for yourself or someone else, anyone of these albums will fit the bill.