Singer Belinda Underwood has an appealing voice: Darkly hued, but with considerable flexibility. She marshals it in a considerably poised fashion on Uncurling, an album that includes both jazz standards and original compositions. A number of fine musicians serve as sideman on the record, including percussionist Airto Moreira, pianists Clay Giberson and Chad Wagner, bassist Dave Friesen, drummer Martin Zarzar, and guitarist Dan Balmer; they play with taste and consummate professionalism.

The standards are given warm, sensuous interpretations. Mel Torme's "Born to Blue" has a sultry swagger, while Irving Berlin's "How Deep is the Ocean," on which the singer also plays upright bass, swings with lilting grace; Wagner's filigreed solo certainly adds helps add a certain suavity. Underwood's originals are nice tunes. I am particularly fond of the title tune, an expansive and lush ballad. "Unspoken Thought" is a sassy and syncopated song that plays with changing meters and pattered lyrics; Balmer gets kudos both for his tasty chord voicings and tasteful soloing here.

Underwood's brand of jazz has a measure of the cocktail lounge in its smoky ambience. Still, there's plenty of substantive music-making along with the classy presentation, making this an enjoyable low key affair.

- Christian Carey, June 2005,



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