'Pieces of Me'
The Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter takes a major leap forward with this vivacious, smartly conceived work. Everything starts with Ledisi’s rich, resonant voice, one of the most vivid in all of R&B. On her fifth record, she has a fine batch of songs to work with, and they give her an opportunity to show off dimensions of her personality she has not revealed previously. She explores the sensuous (“So Into You’’), deliciously nasty (“Coffee’’), playfully dominant (“Hate Me’’), and empowering (“BGTY’’ — that’s “be good to yourself,’’ folks). Ultimately, all these pieces come together to create a coherent rumination on the nature of a woman and how she deals with the complexities of relationships and sexuality. Ledisi, who caresses notes while refusing to resort to histrionics, connects with Jaheim for “Stay Together,’’ an old-fashioned duet in which the two merge seamlessly to find the sweet spot in the lovely mid-tempo jam. The tracks, produced by a blend of newer (Salaam Remi) and older (KayGee of Naughty by Nature) talents, are lucid, intimate and wisely focus on the committed, versatile performances of the singer at the center. They add up to a stirring piece of work. (Out today)