Lynne Jackson and Mike Palter - Sittin' on a Rainbow (The Cabaret Consortium): This enormously gifted husband-and-wife act sing the great American songbook with a sweetness and flair that few have surpassed in the history of cabaret duos. Just as enticing is the hand-in-glove rapport between Jackson's graceful piano playing and Palter's plucky work on the acoustic bass, supported here by a trio of talented backup musicians. The 15 treats on their latest disc range from "I've Got the World on a String" and the Gershwin classic "S Wonderful" to a medley of "Honeysuckle Rose/Ain't Misbehavin'" and an exquisite rendition of Cole Porter's "I Concentrate on You."
-- David Sterritt
Ryan Downe - The Hypocrite (Island): This is a young singer/songwriter with some impressive support; his debut recording is the first release in Elton John's newly reactivated private record label, Rocket Records. Downe wrote or co-wrote each of the 13 songs here, besides playing guitars and keyboards. He's produced a marvelously varied pop album, ranging from torrid rockers to sensitive ballads, that are highly sophisticated in both their musical and lyrical content.
-- Frank Scheck
Ann Nesby - I'm Here For You (Perspective Records): After eight years as the lead vocalist for the gospel group Sounds of Blackness, Ann Nesby bares her soul solo in her debut album. Nesby began singing in church at age 3, but she also admits to being influenced by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, and Gladys Knight. This album offers a smooth mix of traditional gospel, dance tunes, and ballads. All but the title track were written or co-written by Nesby. The ballad-like "(What a) Lovely Evening" flows with a romantic tone while "Thrill Me" grooves to a fast-paced dance beat. The traditional gospel tune "Lord How I Need You" showcases Nesby's origins in the church choir.
-- Laurel Shaper Walters