Ask a Woman Who Knows

Cole's first effort for Verve is easily her strongest recording since 1990's Unforgettable.

Cole's first effort for Verve is easily her strongest recording since 1990's Unforgettable. Besides being reteamed with that set's producer, Tommy LiPuma, Cole uses this project to make a full-fledged commitment to being a jazz singer. There's nary a bit of pandering to the popsters here. Instead, the artist strives to be viewed as a stylist of experience and confidence—and she more than hits the mark. Woman is rife with challenging material that would whither or sound quaint in lesser hands. Perhaps most appealing about Woman is that it washes over the ears like a live performance. LiPuma brilliantly frames Cole with arrangements that have a relaxed tone, giving her plenty of room to explore the various technical regions of her voice, as well as experiment with phrasing. The end result is an album that ushers in a great new phase of Cole's already shimmering career. Color this one truly essential.—LF
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