Having begun practicing piano at age five, Jackie Warren plays nearly as naturally as she breathes. Her abilities are as much a reflection of instinct as intellect, and because of this, her lyrical jazz is palatable to pointy heads and plebes alike.
Near You is Warren's first album after a decade and a half of making the rounds at Nighttown and with the Afro-Cleveland Orchestra. The disc spans styles and years with a knowing wink; she parses the works of Leonard Bernstein and Thelonius Monk with a playful grace that renders the tunes in a way that's both nuanced and immediate. From a frantic reading of Miles Davis's "Nardis," an album highlight, to the sentimental original "Liquid Moon," Warren's premier recording establishes her as Cleveland's first lady of jazz.