Amel Larrieux at Highline, Marsalis' new gig

12/21/2011, 5:14 p.m.

Amel Larrieux is one of my favorite singers from the 1990s, when she debuted with Bryce Wilson to form the duo Groove Theory (Epic Records, 1995). Later, in 2000, her debut solo album, "Infinite Possibilities," also on Epic, became my favorite. Although she is a singer to be reckoned with, Larrieux never attained the acknowledgement she deserves. Her diversity as a vocalist made it difficult for her to be categorized; she continues to forge her own vocal trail.

Larrieux isn't a jazz vocalist or R&B singer; she is just a wonderful singer with a jazzy spirit and a soulful sound. She will perform a host of sweet originals, as well as some old-school greats on Dec. 28 at 8 p.m. at the Highline Ballroom, a venue that has become the mainstay for artists who never follow the familiar path, located at 431 W. 16th St. between Ninth and 10th avenues.

Her live shows are always different, taking on new dimensions at each turn. Larrieux manages to easily move through a wealth of musical influences, from jazz to gospel, funk and R&B with traces of West Africa and Indian ethnic styles, giving her a totally distinctive sound of her own that can't be pigeonholed or duplicated.

She has contributed to film soundtracks, collaborated with the Roots on several tracks and was recognized with a Grammy nomination for the Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for "Where is the Love" by bassist Stanley Clarke.

As Larrieux gets ready to release her next solo album, "Ice Cream Every Day," she continues to push the envelope of creativity and exploration. Tickets are $25 in advance.

It is somewhat of a bad joke that jazz is America's stepchild, although it is America's only art form and America's original music. At any rate, jazz will step forward again as Wynton Marsalis becomes CBS News' cultural correspondent, which was announced by CBS News Chairman and "60 Minutes" Executive Producer Jeff Fager and CBS News President David Rhodes.

In this position he will contribute to "CBS This Morning" and "CBS Sunday Morning." It should be noted that Dr. Billy Taylor was the first jazz musician to join the network with his jazz segment on "CBS Sunday Morning."

Marsalis' first CBS News appearance will be on Jan. 16, as the nation observes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. "Wynton Marsalis and CBS News have a strong connection that goes back many years," said Fager. "His appearances on '60 Minutes,' including his part in our tribute to the great Ed Bradley, were memorable, and the beautiful sounds of his trumpet adorn the network every single week with the fanfare that opens 'Sunday Morning.' Now our viewers will benefit from a regular dose of his insights and observations about American culture."

Marsalis has been artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center since 1987. Under his direction, the organization offers a full array of education, performance and broadcast productions, including national and international touring by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.