Sometimes you get surprised. A while ago I was in purchasing an addition to the stereo system and the salesman demo'd using a Stacey Kent CD. My jaw dropped. Instantly.
I honestly don't remember which CD, so I gambled and picked up 'Close Your Eyes'. I've heard (and own) Diana Krall and Holly Cole (both great), considered Jane Monheit (jury is still out for me), occasionally delve into the coolness of Patricia Barber, but I gotta tell ya, Stacey doesn't have to take a back seat to any of these. There is this hard-to-define "something" in her voice and approach to the song that makes one stop dead in their tracks and go "whoa". Maybe the other reviewers can identify it. I'm not sure it's something definable in print.
As for the CD, I'll admit to liking the vocalist + quartet/quintent approach used on this album more than the typical singer + trio approach. Vocally, Stacey isn't as 'whispery' a stylist as, say, Diana Krall, but I like them both quite a bit for different reasons. Diana tends to be a bit more intimate and dreamy, Stacey a bit brighter and flirty. Both excellent, but very different sounds.
Staceys' sidemen just swing the house down, especially her pianist David Newton, and although I usually am not a big tenor sax fan, I certainly am on this one, with utterly superb work from Jim Tomlinson (who reminds me strongly of Stan Getz). Add in solid drumming, rhythm guitar and bass playing from cats who can hold their own with most anybody, top it off with a shimmering, gorgeous, uniquely styled & perfectly pitched voice, and you have a winner. After a few listens, I now must say this CD goes in my "stranded on an island" collection without any doubts.
If you're a fan of the aforementioned singers, you seriously need to check this one out. Highly, highly recommended.
(Recording quality is pretty good too, very natural and unforced.)