Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Christina Aguilera to Release Jazz-influenced Album

Just when you thought jazz had taken enough abuse from over-the-hill rockers and expired pop stars gunning for the wine-tasting market, teeny-bopping chanteuse Christina Aguilera is set to release an ode to jazz and blues titled Back to Basics on Aug. 15.

According to a recent press release, the album is a “modern take on vintage jazz, soul and blues from the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s...with a throwback style creating a sound that’s gritty and raw.” It will be curious to hear exactly what kind of ‘20s-era “soul” music she's looking to channel, since that genre didn’t really surface until the 1960s, but if anyone from the Britney camp has the pipes to tackle classic American music, it’s probably Aguilera. The 25-year-old pop star has delved into soul material with favorable results several times throughout her career, most notably winning a Grammy alongside Mya, Lil' Kim and Pink for their transformation of the Patti LaBelle hit “Lady Marmalade” off the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.

On the jazz front, Aguilera joined up with Herbie Hancock last year on a Grammy-nominated rendition of Leon Russell's "A Song For You." The track was part of Hancock's pop collaborations album Possibilities, and the pair performed the song live at the Grammy Awards this past February.

Nonetheless, Aguilera’s people seem a little confused about the musical history she hopes to cite. “'Candy Man' recalls the tight harmonies of all-girl groups from the ‘30s and ‘40s,” reads the press release, again misplacing an early 1960s phenomenon.

“The touchstones are Billie Holiday, Otis Redding, Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald....what I used to call my ‘fun music’ when I was a little girl,” says Aguilera. These influences will be shaped into Aguilera’s 21st century vision by several different producers, among them Gangstarr’s DJ Premier, whose resume boasts hits for Biggie Smalls, Nas and Jay-Z. Suffice it to say, no matter how jazz-indebted Aguilera’s latest phase may be, you probably won’t catch her at Lincoln Center anytime soon.

The track “Nasty Naughty Boy” reportedly has a “’20s burlesque feel,” and that sultry spirit could be Aguilera’s nod to tent show divas like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith—though it's doubtful the notoriously provocative pop star has a blueswoman's gift for sexy understatement or sly double-entendres. According to Aguilera's Web site, lyrics to one upcoming track read, “still got the nasty in me…still got that dirty degree…still got that freak in me.”

For more information on Back to Basics, visit Aguilera’s official Web site, www.christinaaguilera.com.

Written By: Evan Haga - jazztimes.com

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