The Rules Of The Game

Cabaret Scenes
January/February 2007
Jeff Rossen

With a gentle piano glissade that melts into a minor key chord, Adi Braun's follow-up to her aptly titled "Delishious" debut album, "The Rules of the Game," begins on a slow, seductive note with her, well, delicious take on Don and Jeff Breithaupt's sexy title song, and along with Doug Riley's just-perfect piano, Steve Wallace on bass, Terry Clark on percussion and Perry White's quite enticing tenor sax, Braun comes up with another first-rate effort on this hour-long winner.

"Rules of the Game" is heavy on ballads and slower tempo offerings, and while that can sometimes create a sameness that dampens the total package, the opposite is true here, mainly because it's on the tender and raw selections that Braun is at her best. Of the livelier tunes, her straightforward and playful approach to Honeysuckle Rose shines, although, even after several listenings, I'm still not sure how I feel about the altered lyric of "Honey, suck my toes." But her popping scat is a charmer. The Latin-tinged Show Me Yours and tropical Guanabara Bay provide satisfaction, but the placement of these three songs would have worked better were they not sequenced back-to-back.

Kurt Weill and Langston Hughes' haunting Lonely House gives Braun a showcase for her darker side, and the warmth she brings to Ann Hampton Callaway's You Can't Rush Spring nearly overflows. Her slow, pointed take on I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good is nicely counterpointed by White's rich sax solo and occasional punctuation. The blues get a long, healthy segment with Braun's sharp seven-and-a-half minute About Last Night, and Gordon Lightfoot's Beautiful is simply that in Braun's interpretation. But the album's high point is the reflective and alternately remorseful and thankful If We Had Never Met, one of those life's moments songs that Braun explores with honesty and passion.