Baker’s diva 

This is how good jazz is supposed to sound. Powerhouse vocalist Renee King-Jackson shows the stuff divas are made of with her independent debut release, Friends and Lovers, a six-song collection that puts that watered-down, commercial stuff found on the radio to utter shame. King-Jackson combines raw talent and megapipes with artistic heart and clearly channeled energy on both originals and covers. She approaches sophisticated tracks such as “Rio De Janeiro Blues” with aggressiveness not common to jazz singers today. It’s a controlled excitement that only adds to the intense moods she and her backing musicians create, a smoky nightclub sort of feel. Conversely, the opening track, “Just Friends,” finds her in a jaunty Ella Fitzgerald mode, singing over bouncy piano notes.

It’s no wonder that King-Jackson has become a local favorite, hosting the open-mic Tuesday night at Detroit’s legendary Baker’s Keyboard Lounge with a string-and-percussion trio. King-Jackson and her top-notch players were recently the first group broadcast worldwide (via the Internet) on renowned WDET-FM (101.9) radio host Ed Love’s show. They followed that live-in-the-studio performance with a set for Mike Tyson and Tommy Hearns when the boxing notables unexpectedly stopped in at Baker’s.

King-Jackson’s husky-but-smooth delivery, combined with her rich tones (much like a soul singer just tinkering with jazz), will make most any listener stop and pay attention. The only shortcoming of Friends and Lovers is its relative brevity. Then again, maybe good music is supposed to leave you wanting more. Mission accomplished.

Eddie B. Allen Jr. writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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