Already known as an accomplished classical pianist, Marina Pacowski displays her engaging jazz vocal skills on her warmly delivered debut album, 2023’s Inner Urge. Born in France, Pacowski (who also teaches classical piano on the faculty of the Conservatory Maurice Ravel) has won accolades for her piano playing, including a 2017 Best Collaborative Music Award from the International Society of Bassists. That brought her to the attention of bassist/composer Frank Proto, who wrote a “Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra” specifically for her and which they recorded in 2018. Along the way, she developed a passion for jazz singing and eventually moved to Los Angeles to better pursue her career. Here, she is joined by an all-star cadre of improvisers, including pianist Josh Nelson, bassist John Clayton, and drummer Ron McCurdy. We also get vibrant contributions by drummer Peter Erskine, trumpeter Carl Saunders, saxophonist Joel Frahm, and others. Vocally, Pacowski has a light touch, favoring a soft, unaffected tone reminiscent of stylists like Chet BakerHelen Merrill, or Astrid Gilberto. Also evocative of Baker is Pacowksi’s penchant for vocal scat improvisation, as on her breezy rendition of “Donna Lee” and “Taking a Chance on Love.” We also get nice renditions of standards like “East of the Sun,” “Moon and Sand,” and “I’m Old Fashioned.” This is straight-ahead acoustic jazz, reminiscent of the lyrical West Coast style of the 1950s and early ’60s, done in a brightly swinging style.

By: Matt Collar for “All Music”

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