Various Artists, ‘Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro’

Laura Nyro’s admirers don’t simply revere her; they worship her with a devotion born of the sad truth that Nyro never got her due while she was alive (she died of cancer in 1997), even though she blazed a trail for songwriters known for nuance and versatility, especially Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones. That’s changing. Following Nyro’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, pianist-composer-arranger Billy Childs’s new project honors and deconstructs Nyro’s legacy. Childs enlists a formidable list of singers, mostly from jazz and folk backgrounds. There are missteps: Soprano Renée Fleming and cellist Yo-Yo Ma sap the warmth from “New York Tendaberry” and Shawn Colvin and Chris Botti render “Save the Country” mush. Mostly, though, the artists understand the heart lurking in Nyro’s knotty compositions. R&B singer Ledisi gives “Stoned Soul Picnic” some bump and grind, and Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas imbue “And When I Die” with homespun grace. It doesn’t sound at all like Nyro’s version — and that’s the point.
(Out now)


ESSENTIAL “And When I Die”