August 28, 2008

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Robin McKelle, Modern Antique
Cheap Lullaby Records, Aug. 19

Boston-based McKelle is big in Europe now, riding a wave of adulation for her Michael Bolton-ness, being a white chick with a voice remarkably akin to Anita Baker’s. There’s nothing wildly innovative in her approach to big-band jazz, the one sound she banks on, and American-Idol-wise she’s no better or worse than the other couple of hundred jazz chanteuses kicking around this office, some of whom are worthy of a much better fate than being forced to release their own stuff.

Righteous tangents aside, McKelle’s jumbo-sized band is loaded for bear, possessed of a tightness befitting the Anita-Baker-Does-the-1940s big-deal-glitz she’s looking for. And like Nnenna Freelon, McKelle is a human coronet, perpetually exuding down-to-earth soulfulness, affixing a bell to her voice when her scat routines call for it (“Lullaby of Birdland”). Her notion of a knuckleball is a cute jazzification of Steve Miller’s “Abracadabra,” which, like everything else on the album, is Arthur Murray-ready if unremarkable. BEric W. Saeger