Regina Belle's Lazy Afternoon starts out just as advertised — a collection of soft jazz songs just perfect for whiling away a lazy afternoon. But the lazy afternoon turns into a hotter night as the CD ends up on a much more up-tempo R & B note. Probably nothing illustrates the change more than the fact that she covers both Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon" and Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness" on the same disk.
The CD starts out very much in the Soft Jazz, Smooth Favorites genre, with the title track "Lazy Afternoon", "Fly Me to the Moon", "What Are You Afraid Of", "If I Ruled the World", the Brazilian "Corcovado", "There's a Love", and "Why Do People Fall in Love". Things start to change with an impromptu (or mock-impromptu) version of the Isley Brother's "For the Love of You" that she works out with her backup singers, The Perry Sisters. Ending with "The Love I Lost", "Moanin'" and a version of "The Man I Love" that I'm sure was more R&B-tinged than George and Ira Gershwin conceived it, leads into the ending "Try a Little Tenderness." So if you are keeping track, that's Sinatra and Gershwin (not a rare combination) along with the Isley Brothers and Otis Redding on the same disk.
Regina Belle is best-known (at least to me) for her duet with Peabo Bryson "A Whole New World" in Disney's Aladdin. This disk marks the first time Belle has worked with producer George Duke, who also supplies keyboard for most of the songs. He's also produced for Anita Baker, among others, and Baker's name would sure to be on the list if you did a "Similar to" listing. There's been a lull in her career until her recent switch to Peak Records, but her marriage to former NBA star John Battle and her five kids may have contributed to that.
Certainly, there's enough material here to satisfy the soft jazz fans, plus enough to keep the R&B side happy too. If you are fans of both, like me, you'll enjoy Lazy Afternoon. (Then again, anytime I can listen to soft jazz without worrying about hearing Kenny G...) If you had to pin me down, however, I'd have to say she does a better Otis than a Frank.