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Friday, Aug. 8, 2008
Maki Rinka "Maki Rinka Sings Broadway"
While her previous albums offered pitch-perfect homages to 1930s-'60s jazz, Maki Rinka has this time gone the whole hog with a minialbum of covers of the show tunes that first inspired her. Backed by a nimble band, the Osaka singer delves headlong into nostalgia with infectious results.
In a rendering of the theme song to Cole Porter's 1934 musical "Anything Goes," minimal percussion, twangy guitar and tinkly piano crash out a backing that drips with the glee of post-Prohibition America, as Rinka rattles through the tricky lyrics in perfect English, her voice clear and seductive.
"Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" throws brass and clarinet against a contagious double-bass rhythm that would win over any fan of the 1949 musical "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" or its 1953 movie remake (Rinka was influenced by Marilyn Monroe in the latter). And the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1949 musical "South Pacific" and its 1958 movie remake surface in the oft-covered "Happy Talk" and the darkly atmospheric "Bali Ha'i."
The album ends with a smoky, languorous version of "Over the Rainbow." It's not actually a Broadway song and Rinka's no Judy Garland, but the bare piano and lilting vocal will earn your forgiveness. It's a shame that none of Rinka's own superb songs grace this album, but as a set of playful yet faithful renditions, there's enough here to keep the wistful jazz-lover smiling for ages.