Music: He's Still Playing Misty

An expat jazz singer dares to be obvious and comes up with one of the year's most vital discs

Singers recording albums of standards face a dilemma not unlike actors contemplating Hamlet: how to launch songs with opening lines nearly as familiar--and potentially as rote--as "To be or not to be" and still sound fresh and spontaneous and not at all like a stale peanut-scented night at the airport Sheraton's cocktail lounge. In this regard, Jeffery Smith, an American expatriate living in Paris, has set himself a real challenge on his first American CD. He has sequenced the songs Lush Life ("I used to visit all the very gay places"), Misty ("Look at me/ I'm as helpless as a kitten...

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