Jazz vocalist Sarah DeLeo's debut album is bookended by two bossa nova treatments from the Great American Songbook: the Shapiro/Campbell piece "If I Had You" and Cole Porter's "So In Love." The most notable aspect of DeLeo's style is the Peggy Lee vibe that she often summons up in her delivery of these songs. Over the past year, we've seen and read a lot about singers like Madeleine Peyroux, who presents almost all of her material in a very accurate Billie Holiday setting. The issue, in that case, still remains: are we listening to an imitation or sincerity?
In the case of Sarah DeLeo, I believe that we're only conscious of the similarity on songs that were in the Peggy Lee songbook. For instance, her performance of Lee's oft-used opening song "It's A Good Day," co-written by her then-husband Dave Barbour, is right on the money. I cannot think of an existing recording of Peggy Lee performing the Ray Charles-associated song "(The Night Time Is) The Right Time," although I've seen her singing Ray Charles tunes on TV during the early '60s. DeLeo's rendering of this song is amazingly close to how Lee might have performed it, right down to the arrangement.
The Ned Washington/Hoagy Carmichael title tune is given an intimate reading assisted by Chris Bergson's guitar work, and on the Matt Dennis/Earl Brent classic "Angel Eyes" DeLeo performs an attractive duet with Mark Verdino's bass. Ditto for the Rodgers & Hart song "It's Easy To Remember," with only the supporting trio of Bergson, Verdino, and Diego Voglino on brushes. However, the Billy Hill ballad "The Glory of Love" is a mistake. Upgraded to a rock-ish tempo, the lyrics are sung in an odd meter, evidently reflecting the work of rapper Mos Def, and become meaningless.
The Nearness of You also includes two songs taken from more contemporary settings. Americana singer/songwriter Erin McKeown contributes "Blackbirds" and Chuck Meyer and Bill Jones provide a witty "Too Young For The Blues."
Personnel: Sarh DeLeo: vocals; Chris Bergson: guitar; Brian Charette: piano; David Cook: Fender
Rhodes; Chuck Mackinnon: trumpet; Mark Verdino: bass; Diego Voglino: drums.