June 28, 2004 12:00 PM

Andy Bey

CRITIC’S CHOICE

With a style reminiscent of his idols Nat King Cole and Sarah Vaughan, Andy Bey, 64, has recorded songs by everyone from Strayhorn to Sting in an unforgettable baritone that’s equal parts benediction and seduction. His four-octave range, nuanced phrasings and effortless delivery make refrains spiral from despair to promise and give the plainest lyrics complexity. On this disc, Bey gets to the emotional heart of 10 tracks, “Lush Life” and “Speak Low” among them. Bey performs with colorful intensity, letting loose shouts and vamps against shifting rhythms and differing combos of brass and woodwinds. Without a doubt, these American songs have met an American master.

JAZZ

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