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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

And now to DAY TO DAY musical contributor David Was. He's been listening to a new jazz album with literary influences.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVID WAS: London-based jazz vocalist Stacey Kent has become a household name in Europe, where the New Jersey native relocated to study comparative literature and foreign languages.

(Soundbite of song, "Ice Hotel")

Ms. STACEY KENT (Jazz Singer): (Singing) Let's you and me go away to the Ice Hotel.

WAS: Instead, like a swinging update on a Henry James novel, she met a saxophone player and abandoned academia in favor of making music full-time. Her new Blue Note album, "Breakfast on the Morning Tram," comes out this week.

(Soundbite of song, "Ice Hotel")

Ms. KENT: (Singing) But just now I think the Arctic will suit us well.

WAS: Somewhere along the line "Remains of the Day" author Kazuo Ishiguro became a fan and wound up penning the liner notes to one of her albums. Had he stopped there, all would have been well indeed, but now the prose stylist has gone Walter Mitty on us and bravely decided to write lyrics for Ms. Kent's new album, an exercise with decidedly mixed results.

(Soundbite of song, "I Wish I Could Go Traveling Again")

Ms. KENT: (Singing) I wish I could go traveling again.

WAS: As a lyricist with novelist envy, I've often pondered the difference between the two genres. Writing, I've concluded, is like playing the accordion. Push it all the way in and you have the stringent metric demands of haiku. Pull it all the way out and you have "Moby-Dick" or Homer's "Odyssey." Songwriting cues closer to the haiku side of the spectrum. As the music business cynics say, don't bore us, get to the chorus. While Ishiguro is an elegant prose stylist, his long line style is better suited to the page than the stage. Happily, Ms. Kent's blossom Dearie-like voice could make the yellow pages sound lyrical.

(Soundbite of song, "The Ice Hotel")

Ms. KENT: (Singing) I want to sit in my shade, sipping my latte beneath the awning of a famous cafe.

WAS: In a rather strange song called "The Ice Hotel," he intones this clumsy couplet, witty though it be. Heavy clothing at all times is the expected norm. Even candlelight at dinner is considered too dangerously warm. Compare that verbiage to a pithier hotel song, "Puttin' on the Ritz," by Cole Porter: high hats and arrow collars, white spats and lots of dollars. Sometimes less is more indeed.

(Soundbite of song, "Breakfast on the Morning Tram")

Ms. KENT: (Singing) While I cried across the deserted city...

WAS: The title track is one that suggests Mr. Ishiguro should stick to his much celebrated day job. "Breakfast on the Morning Tram" reads more like a menu than a song. In one of the off-est off-rhymes of all times, Ishiguro writes, Don't neglect the Belgian waffles, you'll soon forget your troubles. Personally, it makes me hungry for those immortal Chuck Berry lines. Roll over, Ishiguro, and dig this rhythm and blues.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY contributor David Was is half of the musical group Was (Not Was).

(Soundbite of song, "What A Wonderful World")

Ms. KENT: (Singing) I see trees of green, and red roses too. I see them bloom for me and you.

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