Home-grown singer Kit Chan used to be known for her emotive ballads, in which she would swing for the high notes. Hits such as Heartache and Dazzle made her a star.
She no longer feels a need to engage in vocal dramatics for the sake of doing so. Instead, her voice seems more tender and sensitive in The Edge Of Paradise, her first album of original songs since 2004's East Towards Saturn.
Perhaps the title track comes closest to the feel of her earlier works, but even then, the effect is more ethereal than forceful when her voice climbs the scale.
There is a laidback ease to her singing on the quietly insistent There's Been You In My Life and the gentle yet compelling Sudden Rain.
THE EDGE OF PARADISE
Taihe Music Group
Chan has fun on the playfully jazzy number Don't Ask Me Why I Love You, composed by singersongwriter Jimmy Ye. And she pulls off a neat trick by making this seem like a new song with a different arrangement and Cantonese lyrics by the feted Lin Xi on A Missed Opportunity Is Not A Crime.
This is what a Kit Chan album sounds like now.
As she croons on the slow-burn track Spellbound: "My heart has long melted, my love is so passionate." There is no need for her to showboat, the emotions come through loud and clear.
New York ensemble The Hot Sardines play hot swing with a twist of self-aware glee. If Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox is too modern and millennial mash-up for you, The Hot Sardines' more purist style will be up your alley.
FRENCH FRIES + CHAMPAGNE
The Hot Sardines
Decca/Universal Music Classics
Band leader Evan "Bibs" Palazzo's approach is strictly swingstyle, but jazzed up with smart arrangements. A perfect demonstration of this is the clever tweak of Oklahoma's People Will Say We're In Love, which gets a Latininflected arrangement with clicking castanets and parping brass, while tongue-in-cheek violins swoon in the background. The number is held together by lead singer Miz Elizabeth's pitch- perfect delivery, which strikes a balance between girly coo and sensuous croon.
Also check out Palazzo's piano skills on Medley: Comes Love (L'amour S'en Fout). He opens with classical Baroque piano doodling before segueing into old-school stride piano and easy bebop.
Another standout is When I Get Low I Get High, which benefits from the guest appearance of Alan Cumming, whose raspy whisper lends campy fun to the proceedings. There is also a swingy take on Robert Palmer's Addicted To Love and the lovely Henry Manciniworthy Palazzo instrumental original, Gramercy Park.
The ensemble, which includes trumpeter Jason Prover, drummer Alex Raderman, saxophonist Nick Myers and trombonist Mike Sailors, provides stellar back-up.
An exuberant sophomore album that bounces easily from N'awlins hot swing to Parisian bistro to American speakeasy genres without giving you whiplash.
Ong Sor Fern
Frederic Chopin's four ballades for piano are the Polish composer's most exquisite single-movement essays, filled with passion, longing and fantasy. However, these are more associated with literary rather than musical sources, with the musings of Adam Mickiewicz, regarded as Poland's national poet, cited as major inspirations.
Deutsche Grammophon 481 2443
The ballades get what one expects from Li Yundi, who takes a more tempered approach than his rival Lang Lang, without the agogic distortions and deliberately earcatching exaggerations experienced in concert.
His playing is polished, tasteful and not without moments of aural beauty. Of the four, Ballade No. 2, Op. 38, with its alternating calm and violence, gets the most satisfying performance.
By mostly sticking to the middle of the road, he does not add much more to what regular listeners know about Chopin. The fillers hold greater interest. Berceuse Op. 57 is a model of elegant poise and Yundi fares best in Mazurkas Op.17, where he is one with Chopin's rhythmic subtlety and aching nostalgia.
Chang Tou Liang
The complete solo piano works of Franz Liszt (1811-1886) have been recorded by Leslie Howard; what is left are his works for four hands and two pianos. These are rightly considered obscure because of the paucity of concert performances.
FRANZ LISZT WORKS FOR TWO PIANOS
Piano duo Genova & Dimitrov
CPO 777 896-2
The excellent Bulgarian duo of Aglika Genova and Liuben Dimitrov serve up five tasty pieces, beginning with the Grand Concert Piece on Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words, an oversized elaboration stringing together three miniatures. This is a musical case of making a mountain out of a molehill, but it is fun to listen to nonetheless.
Liszt's operatic conflations, the Reminiscences De Norma (after Bellini) and Reminiscences De Don Juan (after Mozart), are well known in their piano solo versions. Heard on two pianos, the elements of derring-do and risk are diminished on the performers' parts, but still exciting.
The best work is Concerto Pathetique, based on the Grosses Konzertsolo and employing the art of thematic transformation to be found in Liszt's symphonic poems and Sonata In B Minor.
Completing the album is Hexameron, a fantastical set of variations on a Bellini theme with contributions from six composers. This edition is shorter than the solo version, but still worth a listen for its share of high jinks.
Chang Tou Liang