Reference CD Review: Raya Yarbrough

Raya Yarbrough Telarc
Music •••• Sound ••••½

In this Age of Norah, it's getting to the point where sultry jazz/pop singers are (sure, brother, I can spare) a dime a dozen. But L.A. native Raya Yarbrough is worth a big investment - as Telarc agrees, having just released her first official CD.

From the start of her career, Yarbrough has written much of her own material, both music and lyrics. Her words can be devastating in their directness, as when "Hollywood Love" ends with: "I guess I see why he prefers her." Among her melodies, the confidently ascending three-note figure in the chorus of "Better Days" is sublime, the stealthily descending eight-step piano line at the start of "Sorrow's Eyes" compels you to wonder what happens next, and the reggae lilt of "You're So Bad for Me" makes the song already sound like a standard. Speaking of which, Yarbrough does some of those, too, from Duke's "Mood Indigo" to . . . Queen's "Dreamer's Ball"!

The band is deft, the production by Steve Bartek is remarkably natural, and - The Voice? Here, supple and floating; there, street-smart. Corinne Bailey Rae, make room for Raya.

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