Dena DeRose belongs to that select group of jazz artists known by the dual moniker of pianist/vocalist. Her peers include Patricia Barber, Diana Krall, Norah Jones, Patti Wicks, Shirley Horn, and Christine Hitt. Of this group, DeRose has the most muscular and assertive style. Her assertive piano playing perfectly balances her beautifully feminine voice. DeRose's new recording, A Walk in the Park, is her strongest offering yet.
Perfoming in the comfortable piano trio format, DeRose proves quite at home. Bassist Martin Wind and drummer Matt Wilson fill out a potent rhythm section, one that proves necessary to keep up with the athletic playing of the pianist. For A Walk in the Park, the singer has assembled a bit of an eclectic group of songs that range from Ellington's "The Lone Ones to John Lennon's iconic "Imagine. Also included are also several DeRose originals that prove her more a formidable composer than many of her peers.
The disc opens with Jobim's "Meditation, one of its lighter moments. DeRose's voice darts above the music, supported by her own deft comping. Her solo is double-fisted, logical, and swinging. She follows this with an old Al Jolson ballad, "All My Love, which she delivers in a thoroughly updated way. Wind and Wilson's accompaniment is unintrusive and essential. Things really pick up on the Irving Berlin standard "How Deep is the Ocean, a lesson on building drama into a performance piece. DeRose progressively moves the song from ballad to juggernaut, with Matt Wilson showing why he is in such demand as a drummer. DeRose's solo is angular and intelligent, full of block chords and blue notes. (Can you say Red Garland?)
Home (with You) is a DeRose ballad that is almost Shorter-esque in its pacing. It is the most effective ballad on the album. The same can be said for the upbeat instrumental, also an original, "A Walk in the Park (with James), dedicated to the late pianist and educator James Williams. DeRose and company burn the house down with this one. The most provocative piece is DeRose's take on "Imagine, untethered completely from the mooring used by Lennon and transformed into an interesting jazz standard.
There is much to like about A Walk in the Park. Of the many fine vocalist recordings that have recently been released, this one perhaps stands as the best.
Personnel: Dena DeRose--Vocals, Piano; Martin Wind--Bass; Matt Wilson--Drums.