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Our critics' picks in new releases



A marvelously nuanced outing by the Long Island native who on this record fronts a crack band of Chicago-based all-stars. Reminiscent of vocalist Patricia Barber, another post-modernist, Sfraga half-sings, half-speaks in compact, vibrato-less phrases full of deft dips and hairpin turns. Guitarist John McLean, whose complimentary notes dart and glide, shadows Sfraga like a spy. He's the singer's secret weapon.

The repertoire is mostly old-school--from Duke Ellington to Richard Rodgers--yet everything sounds up-to-the-minute because the approach is fresh. Fave cut: "Under the Moon and Over the Sky," a tropical Angela Bofill workout rescued from oblivion and turned into a tour de force. Sfraga, uninhibited to the max, mimics jungle birds and wild beasts.

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