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Dorothy Leigh, A Second Chance
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September, 2011: A Second Chance review by Alex Henderson
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To really understand where Dorothy Leigh is coming from musically on much of her debut album, A Second Chance, one needs to know some things about the term “quiet storm.” Back in 1974, Smokey Robinson recorded a post-Miracles solo album called A Quiet Storm; it was on the mellow side of R&B, and subsequently, the term “quiet storm” came to be used to describe R&B that was laid-back, relaxed, ballads-friendly (though not necessarily ballads-exclusive), adult-oriented and perhaps jazzy. Anita Baker, Luther Vandross, Freddie Jackson, Phyllis Hyman, Angela Bofill, Natalie Cole, Teddy Pendergrass, Peabo Bryson, Regina Belle and Sade have been major contributors to quiet storm; all of those artists have been played extensively on quiet storm radio formats (which have also favored R&B-minded, pop-influenced jazz instrumentalists like Grover Washington, Jr., Joe Sample and David Sanborn). And quiet storm is a big part of Leigh’s musical outlook on A Second Chance.

The expressive Leigh doesn’t get into modern hip-hop-style R&B or neo-soul on this album; her approach is very old-school in a 1970s/1980s-minded way. Baker, Hyman, Sade and Bofill are valid stylistic comparisons, and the quiet storm aesthetic is alive and well on breezy, laid-back offerings such as “A Second Chance,” “I’m Gonna Love You Forever,” “Time to Go” and the ballad “Home Again.” None of the songs on this album are jazz in the strict sense; this is definitely an R&B album. But the liner notes were written by veteran jazz critic Scott Yanow, and there is a definite jazziness at work on A Second Chance.

Being jazzy doesn’t mean being jazz per se, but it does mean being jazz-influenced and having jazz overtones; in fact, jazz overtones are all over this album. Like Baker and Sade, Leigh clearly knows how to bring a jazz influence to R&B-oriented material. Take “Whenever We Touch,” for example. “Whenever We Touch” isn’t actually jazz, but it is a jazzy tune that has a slight Latin influence and sort of recalls Natalie Cole’s late 1970s hit “La Costa” (which became a favorite on quiet storm stations). One also finds jazz-influenced arrangements on “Gone Away to Stay” and “Never Did I Stop Loving You;” the latter has some punchy horns that hint at big-band traditional pop. And on “Confession,” Leigh hints at boleros. What are boleros? They are Latin ballads that came out of Cuba, Mexico and other Latin American countries back in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s; the Consuelo Velazquez standards “Bésame Mucho” (“Kiss Me a Lot”) and “Que Seas Feliz” (“May You Be Happy”) are examples of famous boleros. Unlike actual Latin American boleros of the past, “Confession” is performed in English (boleros usually have Spanish lyrics). But rhythmically, “Confession” does have a bolero influence; it is a quiet storm tune that benefits nicely from its awareness of boleros.

Another highlight of this album is the uplifting, gospel-tinged ballad “Don’t Call Me a Fool,” which has an autobiographical quality. Leigh sings about her experiences and choices in life, and she is happy with those choices. Lyrically, “Don’t Call Me a Fool” expresses a viewpoint similar to what Frank Sinatra expressed on “My Life” and what Edith Piaf expressed on “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” (“No, I Don’t Regret Anything”). It’s about looking in the mirror and being content with the face you see looking back at you.

Anyone who expects A Second Chance to be a straight-ahead jazz vocal album along the lines of Abbey Lincoln, Sheila Jordan, Helen Merrill or Kitty Margolis will be disappointed because that isn’t where Leigh is coming from on this release. This is clearly an album of jazz-influenced R&B of the quiet storm variety, not an album of hardcore vocal jazz. But from an R&B/quiet storm standpoint, A Second Chance is a consistently rewarding demonstration of what Leigh has to offer as a singer.

Review by Alex Henderson
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

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