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By Bliss Bowen 04/07/2014

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NATALIA M. KING, SoulBlazz (Jazz Village): (4.5 stars out of 5)
The former Angeleno claims Nina Simone, Thelonious Monk and Janis Joplin as musical forebears, and there’s more than a whisper of Billie Holiday in her yearning “soulblazz.” Long since decamped to Paris, she’s supported by a nimble French ensemble of harmonica, Rhodes organ, saxophone, slide guitar and trumpet. Her evocative alto caresses the bass-and-sax cadences of Sam Cooke’s “Today I Sing the Blues” ’til it smokes, but the album’s fired by poetic, bared-heart originals: “Lady of the Night,” “I Need to See You Again,” “I’ve Changed,” “Stronger Than I.”
THE RECORD COMPANY, Feels So Good  (Kill/Hurt): (3.5 stars out of 5)
The LA trio energizes classic blues-rock tropes with its latest — and accurately named — EP. Even during the Black Keys-esque stompers “Roll Bones” and “Baby I’m Broken” (which eagle-eared “CSI” fans may recognize from a recent episode), frontman Chris Vos, bassist Alex Stiff and drummer Marc Cazorla sound immediate and genuine, filtering rather than aping influences. Taken together, the five solidly produced tracks form a tasty teaser for their energetic live shows. EP release party at the Satellite in Silver Lake Friday.

D’ANGELO, Live at the Jazz Café, London  (Virgin): (four stars out of 5)
The R&B crooner built his rep on 1995’s “Brown Sugar” and 2000’s “Voodoo” and hot-ticket concerts, before disappearing into a haze of pre-rehab smoke and court dates. This exceptional 1995 club recording captures him in peak form, backed by a smooth-grooving band and Angie Stone’s sultry harmonies. Originally released in Japan as a six-track EP, the 11-song set delivers steamy Al Green, Ohio Players and Smokey Robinson covers between originals (“Jonz in My Bones,” “Lady”) that remind just how potent a performer he can be.

ROBBY HECHT, Robby Hecht  (Old Man Henry Records): (four stars out of 5)
On his handsomely arranged third album, Nashville songwriter Hecht’s sensual lyrics compactly address alcoholism, alienation and bipolar disorder. Yet his tuneful ballads, written from a survivor’s vantage point and presented in his sweet tenor, beguile and uplift. Highlights: “New York City,” “Papa’s Down the Road Dead,” the gorgeous Rose Cousins duet “Soon I Was Sleeping” (“You call me up tipsy saying, ‘Girl, don’t you miss me’/ Because you’re thinking you’d rather be dead/ Put that bottle of whiskey where you used to kiss me/ And soon you’ll be sleeping instead”).


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