In his liner notes to Another World, singer/pianist Dena DeRose’s second Sharp Nine release, Bruce Crowther affirms that DeRose is a superb Jazz pianist. Not much cause for argument there. He goes on to say she’s a superb Jazz singer too. Well . . . I haven’t heard many of those lately, and good as she is, DeRose comes up a pinch short of “supreme excellence or beauty.” Her main drawback — and this may sound strange — seems to be that she sounds too calm and self–controlled. In other words, when listening to DeRose sing “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” or “Spring Is Here,” it’s hard to believe she has actually experienced the sort of heart–wrenching misery conveyed by those lyrics. When Sinatra sang “In the Wee Small Hours,” one could almost feel the aching loneliness and sorrow, and wanted to reach out to comfort him with a tender embrace, miserable wretch that he was. When DeRose sings that and other odes to a broken heart, the impassive response is, “Nicely done, Dena. What’s next?” The point is, it’s not enough merely to sing a lyric; one has to feel it as well. Okay, so DeRose is no Sinatra (who was, it must be said, superb, no matter what label was hung on him). She’s at least as talented as most of today’s crop of young singers, and once she learns to sing from the heart as well as the diaphragm may yet outdistance many of them. Meanwhile, she has the piano to lean on, which she does remarkably well (the instrumental tracks, “Hi–Fly” and “Whisper Not,” are among the album’s high spots, due in no small measure to DeRose’s artistry at the keyboard). Mention should be made, too, of the supporting cast, which varies from track to track. Burno, Taylor and Sadownick are solidly in the groove, while Wilson, Davis and Jensen make brief but impressive appearances. One man’s admittedly imperfect opinion is that DeRose is at present a more accomplished pianist than singer, but shows bright promise in both spheres.
Track listing: You Don’t Know What Love Is; In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning; More Than You Know; Hi–Fly; You’ve Changed; Spring Is Here; Don’t Go; Whisper Not; Another World; A Beautiful Friendship (55:53).
Dena DeRose, piano, vocals; Steve Wilson, alto, soprano saxophones; Ingrid Jensen, trumpet, flugelhorn; Steve Davis, trombone; Dwayne Burno, bass; Mark Taylor, drums; Daniel Sadownick, percussion.