How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Singer Sasha Dobson leads a straight-ahead session of familiar standards while surrounded by a stellar group of like-minded artists. The New York-based Chris Byars Octet gives her a strong arena in which to stretch out. Each member of the band provides a hearty partnership for the singer as she interprets these favorite songs from the heart.
"What is This Thing Called Love?" features Dobson in an up-tempo affair, interweaving lyrics with sassy wordless vocals. She's at her best when firing off vocalese and scat-sung choruses, whether in tender, romantic settings or in hard-driving, forceful adventures. As she follows Richie Vitale's flugelhorn solo on "Quiet Nights" with an explosive wordless chorus, you can feel it in your bones. Her passion is genuine.
"I'm Beginning to See the Light" sizzles with a delightful swing. Dobson's scat vocal serves as a powerful "instrumental" lead voice. Instrumentalists often strive to attain a vocal-like technique. Singers do not always concern themselves with the bridge between the two distinctive sounds. Dobson, however, has found that bridge and has crossed it successfully. Her best selection is "The Song is You," where she balances lively, up-tempo lyrics with scat singing and hot instrumental accompaniment. As she trades scat choruses with alto sax and baritone sax, the room seems to light up.
Her slow ballads do not fare as well. The singer's vocal strength wanes when the music slows down. Fortunately, the album includes strong instrumental support and plenty of variety. Outstanding soloists on the session include trumpeter Vitale, saxophonists Chris Byars, Gary Pribek and Mark Lopeman, and trombonist John Mosca.
Track Listing: Who Will Buy?; You Go to My Head; Goodbye; Quiet Nights; What Is This Thing Called Love?; Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry; Detour Ahead; I'm Beginning to See the Light; Sophisticated Lady; I'll Get By; If You Could See Me Now; April in Paris; The Song is You.
Personnel: Sasha Dobson- vocals; Chris Byars- tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet; Gary Pribek- alto saxophone, flute; Mark Lopeman- baritone saxophone, clarinet; Richie Vitale- trumpet, flugelhorn; John Mosca- trombone; Sacha Perry- piano; Neal Miner- bass; Andy Watson- drums.