Carmen Bradford | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Carmen Bradford 

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Vocalist Carmen Bradford cites her nine-year tenure with the Count Basie Orchestra as the glittering jewel of her resume, but to my ears that doesn't give an accurate portrayal of her talents. As a jazz singer she's got a silken-smooth way with a ballad and driving power on up-tempo swingers like Ella Fitzgerald's "Rough Ridin'," but I think she'll eventually find her niche as a sophisticated purveyor of adult pop music--the kind that used to fill the airwaves before the teenagers took over. Bradford is still developing (she signed on with Basie in 1983, when she was 23 years old); her voice shows occasional hints of shrillness and uncertainty, but when she hits her groove she combines forceful conviction with an open sense of vulnerability that's attractive but never cloying. It's that tough-tender romanticism--a throwback to more melodic, optimistic times--that should endear her to lovers of mature, well-crafted pop. It's probably politically incorrect to add this, but she's also got a smile that can melt my heart at 500 paces. Saturday, Cubby Bear, 1059 W. Addison; 327-1662 or 477-7469.

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