After careers as a psychotherapist and a real estate business owner, Dee Cassella takes a late detour in the journey of life by plunging headfirst into the world of jazz when, in 2008, she launched the release of I'm Here Now
at New York's Metropolitan Room, notifying the world that she has, indeed, arrived. Possessing a mature seasoned voice, Cassella delivers a dozen select songs in a repertoire consisting of well-known standards to lesser-known compositions from the likes of pianists Sergio Mihanovich and Alan Broadbent. The texture of the music is warm and mellow throughout, diced with some very nice instrumentals from her musical accompanists.
Making this debut even more enticing is the backing she receives from pianist Dena DeRose and her quintet. Jed Levy on sax and flute lays down various spirited solos, while Matt Wilson holds down the drums as bassist Martin Wind and guitarist Gene Bertoncini round out a very fine rhythm section. Though most of the music is generally soft in nature, there are several up-tempo tunes that stand out, beginning with Tadd Dameron's "Lady Bird," where Cassella does some appreciable scatting against De Rose's delicate piano lines. The Burke/Van Heuse score, "It Could Happen to You," and the Brooks/Bowman classic, "East of The Sun," both feature Cassella's strong vocals, matched by Levy's impassioned saxophone, especially on the latter piece.
But it is the softer side of the music that carries the day for Cassella, and the tone of the opening "I'm In Love Again" seems to set the stage for the beginning and closing acts of this musical journey. "I'm alive again I can wake up and sing" are the lyrics of this opener and aptly describe the message Cassella seems to be delivering here in a gentle manner. She continues conveying the feeling with warm readings of ballads including "Some Time Ago," "When I Look In Your Eyes," "Don't Ask Why" and the immortal "Too Late Now."
With Levy on flute and Bertoncini plucking away on guitar, Dee Cassella brings the auspicious debut of I'm Here Now to a mellow close. Her distinctive vocals tenderize the lyrics and cap off this special session of light jazz guaranteed not to disappoint.
Personnel: Dee Cassella: vocals; Dena De Rose: piano; Jed Levy: saz, flute; Martin Wind: bass; Matt Wilson: drums; Gene Bertoncini: guitar (1,3-5,8,12).