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Being Myself (1998)

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George Benson

Released weeks before her 81st birthday, Lena Horne's third album for Blue Note Records (following 1994's We'll Be Together Again and 1995's An Evening With Lena Horne) was a typically classy effort that found the remarkably well-preserved singer fronting jazz-pop arrangements of standards performed by the likes of George Benson, Donald Harrison, and Milt Jackson, though the basic backing group consisted of pianist Mike Renzi, guitarist Rodney Jones, bassist Benjamin Brown, and drummer Akira Tana. Always a stylist, Horne used her age to advantage, for example, lending Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler's "As Long As I Live," a song she first sang at the Cotton Club in 1934, a new, deeper meaning. Taking her time and singing the kind of material she had excelled at throughout her career, she savored songs like the Gershwins' "How Long Has This Been Going On?" and Arlen and Truman Capote's "Sleepin' Bee." It was fitting that a singer whose limited range early on had forced her to emphasize phrasing and enunciation suffered less than some of her contemporaries from advancing age. ~ William Ruhlmann