Antoinette Montague,
Pretty Blues
(Straight Ahead, 2006)

There is music so familiar we listen to it with jaded ear, absorbing, possibly even enjoying it without giving full attention to the performer.

That can't happen with Antoinette Montague. She's an original, and you've got to heed the passion in her voice, even when she's performing what some might consider the most tired of songs.

Pretty Blues is a familiar collection of ballads, blues and swing. But her renditions are hers alone, personal and professional. From the first track, "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water," to the title piece and all along the way to the final track, "At Last," she makes the music truly her own with a voice that incorporates power, emotion and soul.

She went to Seton Hall University on a full academic Martin Luther King Scholarship and, like so many others, began her singing career in gospel. Later, she performed with R&B and blues bands. Mentored by such notables as Carrie Smith and Etta Jones, she went on to become one of the hardest-working jazz and blues singers in New York City, singing in clubs all over town as well as in festivals and on television.

Montague is backed on this debut album by a solid team of musicians -- Mulgrew Miller on piano, Kenny Washington on drums, Bill Easley on tenor saxophone and flute, and Peter Washington on bass.

My only regret about the album is there weren't more than 12 tracks.

by John R. Lindermuth
25 November 2006

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