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Rickie Lee Jones, 'Just in Time'

Astor Morgan

Some singers train their voices to wrap around whatever trend is hot at the moment. Others build a vintage vibe. Rickie Lee Jones' voice, cultivated over a 45-year recording career, is its own thing. Her singing feels so immediate, so in-your-ear emotional, that it can encapsulate many eras while transcending such boundaries altogether.

Having released countless unforgettable original songs and inventive, award-winning covers, Jones finally turns to the jazz standards she's loved since childhood on Pieces of Treasure, out April 28. Reuniting with Russ Titelman, who produced her first two classic albums, Jones applies her deep understanding of jazz craft to these songs while rendering them as fresh as a hello (or, in the sad ones, goodbye) kiss from a close friend. Recorded in just a few days with a small band and only a few guests — here the legendary vibraphonist Mike Mainieri provides an easy-stepping counterpart to Jones's floating vocal — Pieces of Treasure has a live feel that supercharges its intimacy.

Her laid-back yet meticulous artistry comes through in this version of the Styne-Comden-Green song "Just in Time," previously rendered in jaunty colors by the likes of Dean Martin, Judy Garland and Nina Simone. In her version, Jones lets the sun shine in, but she maintains a pensive undertone as she offers the realistic perspective of someone who's been around a few blocks. "When we were recording, this other woman stepped up to the microphone and started to sing," Jones has said of her take. "It was as if she were waiting for me to turn 69 to make herself known."

Happy to meet you, new Rickie Lee — as great as all the ones who've come before.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ann Powers
Ann Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR.org and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music podcasts.

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