Sarah DeLeo, a young New York-based singer, conjures up images of Peggy Lee and the elegant supper club years of the 1950s and 1960s. I was particularly impressed with the tune selection and arrangements on her debut, The Nearness of You. She begins the album with a bossa nova version of "If I Had You" that works wonderfully and gives a fresh lease on life to a song that doesn't get much play any more. It was also nice to hear the sorely overlooked Peggy Lee/Dave Barbour tune "It's a Good Day." DeLeo has the Peggy Lee phrasing down pat, and she has mastered her understated swinging style.
DeLeo shows that she doesn't have to shout to swing or to sing the blues. This can heard in her versions of "(The Night Time is) The Right Time" and an inspired shuffle version of "The Glory of Love"a tune I normally despise, but somehow DeLeo makes it work.
Although this album is a tribute to the great American Songbook and examines familiar musical territory, one new discovery was the humorous Chuck Meyer/Biff Jones tune "Too Young for the Blues" and its Dave Frishberg-like lyrics. This is followed, however, by a very soulful and bluesy version of "Angel Eyes" that she sings accompanied only by Mark Verdino's bass.
DeLeo's ballad singing is truly inspired. With a musicality that belies her youth, she can slow down a ballad like Shirley Horne and bring a poignancy to the simplest phrase, as evidenced by her versions of "The Nearness of You" and "It's Easy to Remember," both of which feature tasteful obbligatos by guitarist Chris Bergson. Ending the album as she began, DeLeo presents a bossa nova version of "So in Love," and like all of Cole Porter's tunes, it seems to have anticipated the bossa nova revolution by several decades.
This is a wonderful album that features a delightful voice, imaginative arrangements, and a group of musicians who perform with total musical cohesion. It exhibits something we encounter very rarely in these vulgar times: consummate taste. My only quibble is its 48 minute duration.
Personnel: Sarah DeLeo: voice; Brian Charette:piano; David Cook: Fender Rhodes; Chris Bergson:
guitar; Mark Verdino: bass; Diego Voglino: drums; Chuck Mackinnon: trumpet.