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Music Review: Sophie Milman – Take Love Easy

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Sophie Milman faced an unusual hurdle while recording her first two discs – the young Toronto-based chanteuse was still in school, and sessions had to be scheduled around her studies.

Sophie’s a mature young woman now, though, and while both of her previous outings were first-rate, there’s a significant sense of growth on Take Love Easy. As she herself points out, her earlier efforts explored the past and her influences, whereas Take Love Easy has a much more adventurous feel, as Milman explores love’s many facets with a thoroughly adult perspective.

Milman, born in Russia and raised in Israel before moving to Canada at age 16, is possessed of a marvelous voice, smoky and stylish, with just the faintest trace of an accent that adds an intriguing hint of the exotic to her phrasing. It proves startlingly effective – while her technical dexterity is nothing less than startling, there’s an added air of mystery thanks to a subtle thickness apparent in some of her phrasing, an extra burr to her purr.

Milman also exhibits a rare intelligence in the selection and arrangement of material. Aided by producer Steve MacKinnon, she’s assembled a collection that oozes romance while simultaneously celebrating love’s ambiguities. In addition to tunes from Duke Ellington (the title track) and a pair from Cole Porter (“I Concentrate On You,” “Love For Sale”) there are surprises by way of a radically re-worked “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover,” Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” and Joni Mitchell’s slinky “Be Cool.” There are distinct Latin touches to a number of arrangements (including a stripped down and utterly gorgeous “My One And Only Love”).

Milman is equally at ease at any tempo or mood, whether it’s the breezy bossa nova of Jobim’s “Triste,” the poppy heartbreak of the oft-covered “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” or swinging hard through “Beautiful Love.”

Milman and MacKinnon strip each composition to its core, then begin exploring the song’s jazzy possibilities, determined to find new facets while honoring the writer’s intent. They’re aided by an extensive cast of Canada’s finest in support of the core quartet – pianist Paul Schrofel, guitarist extraordinaire Rob Piltch, with Keiran Overs and Mark McLean on bass and drums respectively.

Stylish and elegant, cerebral and sensuously sassy, Milman is no longer an emerging artist with enormous promise. Take Love Easy shows she’s arrived, a singer of emotional depth and intelligence with an unerring sense of swing. Very highly recommended!

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