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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Consummate Cabaret From Karen Akers at Cinegrill

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The Cinegrill’s recent return to first-rate cabaret programming continues for the next two weeks with a welcome appearance by Karen Akers. The New York singer’s opening set on Wednesday superbly defined the musical intricacies and emotional subtleties of this most intimate of pop music arts.

Unfazed by a small turnout, Akers took immediate physical command of the stage, the lithe, expressive movements of her long arms gracefully framing the classic look of dark, bobbed hair and sculptured cheekbones.

Working an artfully constructed set of tunes ranging from the familiar to the obscure, she brought her unique interpretive qualities--a deep contralto voice and an unerring connection with a song’s story--to everything she sang.

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Among the highlights: a fascinating harmonic medley (via music director’s Mike Abene’s arrangement) of the Gershwins’ “Isn’t It a Pity” and Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye”; a bittersweet rendering of Maltby & Shire’s “If I Sing,” and Akers’ signature reading of Edith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.”

Best of all, and a consummate example of Akers’ ability to get inside a song, was her brilliant interpretation of Craig Carnelia’s anthem to the freedom of the spirit, “Flight.” It was the perfect climax for a near-perfect evening of cabaret.

* Karen Akers appears at the Cinegrill , Radisson Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. tonight, Saturday, June 24 and 25 , and at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. $20 cover charge, two-drink minimum. (213) 466-7000.

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