Natalie Cressman & Secret Garden: Unfolding

Lesson #1: Don’t judge a book by its cover. She looks like someone who’s going to be doing Janice Ian covers, and the name of the group (Secret Garden) just oozes of doe-eyed female “feelings” and “relationships.” Well, pop in the first song, buddy, and this lady plays a trombone (which you can barely see on the cover photo) like Curtis Fulller in drag! She and her team of Ivan Rosenberg/tp, Chad Lefkowitz-Brown/ts, Pascal Le Boeuf/key, RubenSamama/b, and Jake Goldbas/dr go through the instrumental hard boppers like “Flip” like it’s a reunion of The Jazz Messengers. Yes, she does sing, but her voice has an alluring smoky quality that adds to, and not detracts from, the mood. A clever reading of “Honeysuckle Rose,” gets the mood just right, and “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” is as languid as all get out. Impressive on a plethora of fronts. Surprisingly appealing.

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