August 30, 2004 12:00 PM

R.S.V.P.

On R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal), jazz diva Wilson settles some unfinished musical business, performing an eccentric set of favorite tunes she had yet to record in her remarkable five-decade career. The concept here is affection, not adventure. There are guest soloists (vibraphonist Gary Burton and pianist George Shearing among them), familiar titles from Duke Ellington (“I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart”) and Irving Berlin and an uncomplicated mix of moods as Wilson swings with a big band, then admits infatuation backed only by a piano. What impresses most is the skillful, sultry elegance Wilson, 67, brings to songs as different (and simple) as “Little Green Apples” and “Why Did I Choose You?” a quiet ballad she once heard covered by Marvin Gaye. As always, Wilson’s crisp diction and understated phrasings convey heartbreak without hollering while giving humor and resonance to lyrics as cutesy as those on the disc’s opener, “An Older Man Is Like an Elegant Wine.” Overwhelmingly mellow, R.S.V.P. is a tasteful and captivating musical analogy to the cinematic director’s cut—a public peek at the artist s private preferences.

DOWNLOAD THIS: “Blame It on My Youth”

JAZZ

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