Maybe it's Julie Mahendran's unabashed love for pop music, like her take on George Michael's Kissing A Fool, that sets this jazz album apart from the overwhelming amount of staunch traditionalist fare out there. Rather than simply imitating past masters like Ella and Billie, the Toronto-based singer offers interesting twists on old standards - check her fun-loving vocals on the Miles Davis classic Freddie Freeloader - and lays the groundwork for her unique original numbers. There's also a groove-based funky feel to a few of the tunes that balances the mellow ballads perfectly. With only drums and acoustic bass as backup, Mahendran has nothing to hide behind, but fortunately, her voice and phrasing are solid enough to pull it off. Mahendran plays the Rex Saturday (March 5) as part of CMW.