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Jazz review: Barbara Morrison soars, growls, purrs

Barbara Morrison wants you to have a good time when she sings. That’s what she’s there for. That’s what you’re there for. So whether she’s playing Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, a jazz cruise or the Dakota, whether the house is full or thin, you’ll get what you paid for and more.

The house could have been better at the Dakota for Monday night’s second set, but Morrison let us know that the people who mattered were there. She’s back tonight, so you have another chance to see her deliver. On Monday, she performed a generous set of standards and favorites, and was backed up by a fine band of area musicians — Lee Blaske on piano, Dave Karr on tenor saxophone, Gary Raynor on bass, Joe Pulice on drums.

Elegantly dressed in black velvet and beaded lace and crowned by a nimbus of platinum hair, she turned "On the Street Where You Live” from a prim-and-proper "My Fair Lady" chestnut into sassy swing.

Between songs Monday, she gave us stories; we learned that the woman who wrote "Willow Weep for Me" also wrote "Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" and that this year marks Duke Ellington’s 110th birthday. She told jokes and teased the band. She let the audience know that "all requests are accepted when you send them up on a hundred-dollar bill."

She played with tempos, threw in a little scatting, and kept on singing: a soulful, emotional "That’s All" and "This Is Love," among others. She soared and growled and purred. (A good example of all that is on YouTube.) For her finale, she burned through her signature song, "They Call Me Sundown."

Later Morrison changed out of her stage clothes and sat at the bar, talking with her friend Debbie Duncan and anyone else who stopped by. She mentioned that within the next month or so she’ll be starting a new project, her own radio show on KJAZZ in Long Beach. Maybe KBEM will pick it up? Meanwhile, Morrison is here for one more night and two more sets. It’s cold outside but she’ll warm you up. 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., tonight, Jan. 6. The Dakota, ($28/$20), 612-332-1010.

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