"I know this is a jazz record and all," says Regina Belle, who is best known for her R&B stylings, "but I'm feeling like singing." So she sets aside her jazz cool and uncorks a joyous, nearly a cappella medley of old-school faves "The Love I Lost" and "For the Love of You" with mellow harmonizing backup. If Belle's enchanting voice has a familiar ring, thank Disney. Her career was going just fine with hits like 1989's "Come to Me" when in 1992 she broke out by teaming with Peabo Bryson on the chart-topping "A Whole New World (Aladdin's Theme)." Soon enough her gospel-bred pipes and sultry appeal acquired Grammy-winning pop acclaim. With Lazy Afternoon Belle tests her versatility. Here blues, Broadway and bossa nova meet for contemporary jazz with an R&B heart.
While Belle's sound can recall Anita Baker, her phrasings conjure Nancy Wilson. But it's the power and emotion of her voice that impress on tracks like "Moanin'," a gospel-tinged post-bop classic made funky with a James Brown bass line, and the swinging "What Are You Afraid Of," inviting all to "come a little closer, stay a little longer." Don't disappoint the lady.
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