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Aural Pleasure Review

Bett Butler featuring Joël Dilley: 'American Sampler'

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There's nothing brassy or flamboyant about local jazz artist Bett Butler's lovely and wistful album of standards: American Sampler is indeed a sample of Great Recession twists on such luminaries as Gershwin, Berlin, and Arlen. Butler's heartfelt "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" takes on additional resonance in these economically troubled times. And that tone of sadness bleeds over into any number of pieces, including a haunting version of Bernstein's "Some Other Time" (introduced by a languid, Erik Satie-esque vamp), and an appropriately introspective "Melancholy Baby," a Tin Pan Alley number now celebrating a century of melancholia. But not everything is doom 'n' gloom. Butler's up-tempo "Over the Rainbow" will send samba lovers over the moon, and her carefree, hopscotching scat on "I Got Rhythm" provides an excellent counterpoint to the album's darker undercurrents. As both pianist and chanteuse, Butler's principal virtue is clarity of form; she's a natural storyteller, and the song comes first. She's aided by some ace work on bass by Joël Dilley, particularly during her jittery, tuneful romp through Kern's "The Song is You." A release party and concert is scheduled for Saturday, March 24, at the Josephine Theatre and costs 120 dimes — if you can spare 'em. 

★★★★ (out of 5 stars)

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