There’s always a place for a gorgeous-voiced woman in a slinky dress leaning on a piano. After a few apple-bacon-infused martinis she can do no wrong, and you can do nothing but wrong. Raya Yarbrough not only leans on the piano, she writes her own material, arranges it, and makes it sound like Cole Porter and Duke Ellington. Her gracious and melodic voice is the perfect accompaniment to the slow moody sound of Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” or the subtly urgent “Joy Spring” by Clifford Brown, but she’s more than that.
Ms. Yarbrough writes most of her own material, and before reading the liner notes I confess to spending time trying to remember what show or album I’d heard these songs on. She’s that good, and on this debut album her material slides gracefully into the canon of jazz, lounge, and show music that America contributed to the world. Songs like “Listen, Emily” and “Vice and Vanity” carry little stories and if they don’t move her story forward, they at least get the exposition out of the way and make you wish it went on a little longer. Raya Yarbrough’s worth watching, she’s a singer/songwriter who could take on Carol King and Joni Mitchell.