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Dana Lauren: New York, May 22, 2011

Dan Bilawsky By

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Dana Lauren
Metropolitan Room
New York, NY
May 22, 2011
Sunday night shows are a tough sell to the average music fan. Weekend gatherings, housework and Saturday evening soirees often take their toll and sour people from making their way out to hear live music on a Sunday evening, but diehard jazz fans know that something special might await them. Established artists finishing up week long stints at hallowed New York haunts, like the Village Vanguard or Blue Note, are often at their peak at this point in the week, and clubs that typically book big names on a night-to-night basis are often willing to take a chance on relative newcomers, as the dawn of a new work week approaches. While the risk-to-reward ratio for the second type of booking doesn't always work out favorably for the club owners, they occasionally hit artistic pay dirt, and such was the case with vocalist Dana Lauren's debut at New York's Metropolitan Room.
A small gathering of loyal fans, well-wishers and vocal jazz enthusiasts gathered to take in Lauren's hour-long set of standards, and the young vocalist didn't disappoint. With two positively reviewed, self-released albums under her belt, and work with high-profile artists like Arturo Sandoval, the 24-year old vocal wonder still seems to fly under the radar, but so do high-powered missiles, and nobody should question the explosive potential of either. Lauren possesses a golden set of pipes capable of soothing, seducing or setting a song ablaze, and she demonstrated all of these attributes to the lucky few that caught this set.
Lauren and her band of fellow young bloods started things off with a tasty double shot of Rodgers and Hammerstein, and the young songstress immediately established herself as a voice with which to be reckoned. A swinging, up-tempo trip through "People Will Say We're In Love," which took flight as Lauren sang atop drummer Jake Goldbas' deft brushwork, was followed by a relaxed take on "I'm In Love With A Wonderful Guy." The dichotomy between Lauren's vocal performances, which were stunning and confident, and her stage banter, which was informal and unaffected, was at once disarming and charming. Her between-song thoughts moved from personal obsession with Matthew Morrison, of Broadway and Glee fame, to thoughts on Lady Gaga, but it wasn't all based on present-day pop culture. Lauren also expressed great enthusiasm for the work of Doris Day and jokingly chided Goldbas for his absence as the encore began.

When Lauren wasn't sharing an amusing anecdote or holding the audience in a spell with her vocals, a good deal of the attention fell on tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger. The young saxophonist, who received plenty of positive press for Before The Rain (Palmetto, 2011), snaked his way through any gaps in the vocal lines and delivered pleasing solos of a succinct nature. While he displayed a dispassionate stance and stony gaze, his playing was the antithesis of his visual persona. Darting runs ("There's A Small Hotel") and delicious solo dishes ("I'm In Love With A Wonderful Guy") were doled out with skill, and Preminger proved to be equally passionate and polished.

After stepping outside The Great American Songbook for "Coffee Calls For A Cigarette," Lauren produced a pair of winning numbers from It's You Or No One (Self Produced, 2010). Goldbas created grooves aplenty as he started "There's A Small Hotel" by treating his kit to some hand drumming and, later, decided to ride atop a glass placed on his floor tom. His deep sense of swing and attention to touch underscored and elevated the entire set, and the follow-up, "Give Me The Simple Life," was no exception.

While the band really came together as one during those two performances, the show reached an emotional peak with Irving Berlin's "Count Your Blessings (Instead Of Sheep)." Pianist Julian Shore was the lone band member to remain on the stage, supporting Lauren with his tender touch, as she delivered a spine-tingling take on this classic. By the time Lauren pulled out "I Had The Craziest Dream," she already had the audience in the palm of her hand, proving that maturity and talent can triumph over age. While female sirens singing standards seem to be a dime-a-dozen today, Lauren seems destined to stand out like a diamond in a pile of coal: immediately recognizable and brilliantly multifaceted.

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