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    Shelley Neill, ‘The Currency Is Heat’

    On her sixth CD as a leader, the veteran Boston jazz singer Shelley Neill continues to venture outside the standards songbook and into classic pop, blues, and R&B. So two Patsy Cline hits, “I Fall to Pieces” and the Willie Nelson-penned “Crazy,” are delivered with jazzy swing and cabaret intimacy, as is the Janis Joplin vehicle “Half Moon.” Neill’s husky alto is earthy and conversational, rather than pop-operatic. That strategy serves her well even on a doo-wop-inspired number like the Delfonics’ “La La La Means I Love You”: Where the original is playful and seductive, Neill, singing in a way-down ballad tempo, emphasizes longing and loss, the tripping syllables of the title especially wistful. Here as elsewhere, she’s served well by her longtime trio of pianist Laszlo Gardony, bassist Ron Mahdi, and drummer Yoron Israel; Gardony in particular is incisive not only in his chordal accompaniment, but also in extending the melodic line with inventive improvisations that serve the song, the arrangement, and the singer. (Out now)


    ESSENTIAL “La La La Means I Love You”