This is Washington, D.C. based Diane Hubka's second album for A-Records, a subsidiary of The Netherlands label, Challenge Records. Like her first, she stays avoids standard material. Instead the play list is dominated by what most would call "off-beat" songs. Whatever, these tunes do not receive much recording attention even though many are the product by well know writers like Richard Rodgers, Jule Styne and Herbie Hancock.
Filling a CD with this kind of material can be a risky endeavor; a vocalist must have great confidence in her ability to pull it off. Hubka obviously met that bill since this is as entertaining an album that has hit the streets for some time. This album demands the listener give it an intense listen, not only to the lyrics, but to the interplay between Hubka and the musicians who accompany her on this journey down the road of fresh ideas and changing tempos.
The satisfactory results make the effort worthwhile as there is not a bad track on this CD. "In Walked John", Malachi Thompson's lyrical description of John Coltrane's influence on jazz, is one of the highlights of the album. Hubka's delivery is straight forward and compelling while everyone gets an opportunity to stretch out paying their personal homage to the seminally influential tenor saxophonist. Especially commanding is Scott Whifield's trombone solo. "Never Never Land" (somewhere between Oz and Wonderland, I suppose), has a fairy tale aura about it. Along with Hubka's delicate phrasing, there's an extended solo by guitarist John Hart with Tony Moreno's drums dancing among the chords of the guitar. Hubka shows that she is no slouch with a guitar as she honors one her mentors, Bob Dorough, on "Small Day Tomorrow." With "Baltimore Oriole" comes a mood change. As Hart's guitar provides just the right accents to complement her vocal eloquence, Hubka goes blues with the Hoagy Carmichael tune, recalling the versions by Carmen McRae and Lorez Alexandria. Another singer who explores material similar material, Meredith d'Ambrosio
Another contribution to making this album as successful as it is the balance Hubka strikes between straight singing and wordless vocalizing and scatting. She doesn't scat on every tune but when she does, it is important to the lyrical message she is conveying. Other singers could learn a good deal from listening to the album.
Also, a major factor in the success of the session is Hubka's supporting cast. Special mention needs to be made of Frank Kimbrough whose piano is the glue which holds the session together.
Diane Hubka belongs to the coterie of special singers who can work magic with off the beaten track material. Irene Kral, Jeri Southern, Meredith d'Ambrosio, Sheila Jordan and Blossom Dearie are other members of this special group. This album is highly recommended.
Personnel: Diane Hubka-Vocals, Guitar; John Hart-Guitar; Frank Kimbrough-Piano; Dean Johnson - Bass; Tony Moreno - Drums; Scott Whitfield -Trombone