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Stacey Kent is back, with her regular combo, for an engaging tribute to Richard Rodgers. In addition to routinely covered songs like "It Never Entered My Mind" and "Bewitched," the Britain-based vocalist looks to the South Pacific book and comes up with two items seldom performed in a jazz context - "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair" and "Bali Ha'i." Happily, these are two of the best cuts; the former, with its burlesque-ish 6/8 middle section, works amazingly well. The sound of the disc is strong, highlighting the nicely varied arrangements and the innate charm of Kent's puckish voice.
Recorded in conjunction with the 2002 Richard Rodgers centennial celebration, In Love Again is another winning album for Stacey Kent. The songs Rodgers wrote with Lorenz Hart always suit themselves naturally to jazz, so Kent covers nine of them here, including the great standards "Bewitched, Bothered amp; Bewildered" and "It Never Entered My Mind." There are also three of Rodgers's songs with Oscar Hammerstein II: the easy-swinging opener "Shall We Dance?," "Bali Ha'i," and "It Might as Well Be Spring," the jazziest Rodgers amp; Hammerstein song (no matter what John Coltrane says). Kent's crack band returns, with guitarist Colin Oxley's sensitive lines recalling Joe Pass's work with Ella Fitzgerald, and Jim Tomlinson supporting his wife on tenor sax and flute. --David Horiuchi