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Ilona Knopfler, Some Kind of Wonderful (Mack Avenue)
Nice idea this. Take some '60s classic pop songs and give them a small group, jazz-tinged setting. Singer Ilona Knopfler has a pure, clear tone, while, in a talented band, Pat Kelley on guitar and Eugene Maslov on piano stand out as stylish accompanists. The material does not always fit Knopfler's attractive but rather MOR delivery, and next time out I'd advise her to drop the more up-tempo and soul-based numbers, but when she has a gentle melody or understated theme to play with she announces herself as a real talent. "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and "Some Kind of Wonderful" lack, respectively, the passion and bounce that they require. On the other hand Nick Drake's "River Man" and Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" work surprisingly well. Best of all are the two Zombies numbers, "Time of the Season" and "She's Not There". These are great songs and Knopfler instills them with a freshness and genuine charm. This is a likeable and unashamedly easy-going set, if not quite up to the Krall comparisons that are being bandied about. A promising debut nonetheless and Knopfler should find herself a regular on Smooth Jazz play lists in the coming months.