Regina Belle decided to record a CD with more of a jazz context a context that is heard during her concerts but which isn’t heard as often on her recordings, even on her most recent CD, This Is Regina.
Belle’s style of jazz isn’t reminiscent of, say, Betty Carter’s or Billie Holiday’s, but no matter. She worked on the project with arranger and keyboardist George Duke, who is particularly suited to producing projects with female vocalists, based on his past experiences with Sarah Vaughan, Dianne Reeves, Anita Baker and others. R&B is an indelible component of Regina Belle’s style, and she can’t but be herself, even on a CD that covers such standards as "The Man I Love" or "Moanin’." As a result, Belle’s covering of such tunes comes from her own experience, something that Duke wisely perceives, and his arrangements allow lots of space for her to shape her winding phrases. "Fly Me To The Moon" includes the seldom-heard verse, done in rubato fashion with just voice and piano as she glides into a note and bends it, before she moves luxuriantly into the chorus, as the Perry trio lays down the foundation for her emotional, obviously gospel-inspired personal development of the song consisting of dramatic highs and lows in the space of a couple measures.
"Moanin’," despite its solid jazz tradition from the Adderleys and other, attains a deep South blues feel, as Belle lets the suffering and despair that inspired the song come through in its call-and-response structure before it shifts into a shuffle rhythm. And "The Man I Love," despite its Billie Holiday tradition, has adapted to so many styles that it surprises when Belle sings it straight as a medium-tempo ballad.
But Belle can hardly restrain herself from the R&B that established her reputation, and it turns out that one of the true highlights of the CD occurs when Belle’s and her background singers’ guards are down. In an unrehearsed moment, she leads the Perry Sisters, first, in "The Love I Lost," and then they settle into "For The Love Of You," Belle on melody and the Perrys on the "oo-oo-oo’s" (to rhyme with "you" and "view").
Even though Belle has settled now in the Atlanta suburbs with former NBA player John Battle and their family, she still find the opportunity to sing and to record, fortunately. With Lazy Afternoon, Belle has found a different avenue, and some new material, for her to dig into and to come up with approaches that reveal another side of her talent.