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Liz McMahon

Liz McMahon is best known IZ MCMAHON IS BEST KNOWN as somebody else--the title characters in the Invisible Theatre's productions of Sophie Tucker: An American Legend and Always, Patsy Cline. Her new privately issued CD will introduce you to something closer to the real Liz McMahon, and you'll be pleased to make her acquaintance.

Actually, the disc Right As Rain won't be news to anybody who has caught McMahon at one of IT's cabaret shows over the past five summers. Here, as in those shows, McMahon smiles and aches her way through more than a dozen standards and recent songs. The stylistic variety is fairly wide, but it's basically the sort of material you'd hear from Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and, to an extent, Patsy Cline if they were alive today.

McMahon eschews both scat and scatology, so you'll hear neither hard-core jazz singing nor rap on this CD. It's middle-of-the-road music, beautifully performed. In her high notes, McMahon can sound no more than 21 years old. In the lower range, where she settles most of the time, she sounds not older so much as experienced and a little world-weary, for there's at least a little heartbreak and yearning in most of these songs, including Kurt Weill's "My Ship," Noel Brazil's "Columbus," Willie Nelson's "Crazy," Jimmy Van Heusen's "Here's That Rainy Day" and Jimmy Webb's "Didn't We."

McMahon not only makes lovely, musical sounds, but she acts every song--not to an extreme, but there's always emotion and thought behind the notes. The difference her stage experience makes is most evident in "Home Is Where the Heart Is," a duet with Lisa Otey. Otey is a fine, emotive singer herself, but McMahon delivers her lines with extremely subtle catches and colorings you don't always hear from concert-oriented performers.

Don't get the idea that this album is a downer; there's a lot of swing and smile in "Give Me the Simple Life" and "He Ain't Mr. Right," for example.

McMahon shows good taste in musical partners, among whom are Otey, pianist Jeff Haskell, guitarist-arranger Ed DeLucia, drummers Fred Hayes and Jon Westfall, and especially bassist Ed Friedland and trombonist Rob Boone.

McMahon will cover material along these same lines with the jazz ensemble Urban Rhythms in a concert Monday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m. at the Gaslight Theatre, 7010 E. Broadway Blvd. Tickets cost $12 general, with discounts. For information, call 886-9428.

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