Nnenna Freelon, "Homefree"

A jazz vocalist recording standards from the Great American Songbook isn't an innovative idea. But singer Nnenna Freelon takes a fresh, appealing approach to the concept on her seventh Concord album, "Homefree." Intriguing, left-of-center arrangements--coupled with one of the most alluring voices in music--lay the foundation for this 11-track mix of standards, anthems and blues to full effect. Opener "The Lamp Is Low" sparkles with a swinging bossa nova beat, while a slower, laid-back version of the Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim classic "I Feel Pretty" commands attention. And cheesy doesn't even enter the equation in Freelon and her band's contemporary take on "Theme From Valley of the Dolls." Then she fearlessly updates the black national anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," with son Pierce adding a rap overture. Freelon remains a versatile artist at home with her craft, able to make any song her own without compromising its essence--the mark of a true artist. --Gail Mitchell