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Any self-respecting pop star would be delirious to have a hit like “I Love You Always Forever,” an irresistible bit of romantic treacle that launched Welsh singer Donna Lewis to global success in 1996. Same goes for “At the Beginning,” the uplifting duet with Richard Marx from the animated film Anastasia, which returned Lewis to the top of the charts in 1997.
But if you really listened past the earworm chorus and bubbly beat of Lewis’s debut hits, you quickly sensed that she was no flash in the pan. The classically trained daughter of a jazz pianist, Lewis had a breathy coo that could recall Kate Bush, and used it with a flexibility that few pop princesses could muster.
Still does, to judge by Brand New Day, a striking demo Lewis has just recorded with prog-jazz trio the Bad Plus. Produced by avant-guitarist David Torn, the collection addresses a personalized pantheon: Songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Burt Bacharach, Chocolate Genius and Gnarls Barkley mesh cozily and radiate congeniality. “I Love You Always Forever” merits its inclusion. At Drom, pianist Aaron Parks sits in with Bad Plus bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King for what’s certain to be an illuminating reintroduction.—Steve Smith
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