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Lea Delaria: Double Standards

Marcia Hillman By

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Double Standards is Lea DeLaria's jazz approach to a selection of rock classics. She has chosen eleven diverse songs vocally to slip and slide around. The first track, Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot, features some lively moments during which she trades scatting solos with tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake. Blondie's "Call Me is translated with a blues feel and allows DeLaria to show off another facet of her vocal ability. Also notable is her plaintive rendition of Neil Young's "Philadelphia and a romping R&B treatment of Jane's Addiction's "Been Caught Stealing, complete with a rousing guitar solo by Adam Rogers.

On this Telarc debut album, DeLaria is able to cover the wide range of her vocal instrument. At times she possesses a little girl quality (strongly reminiscent of Anita O'Day), then at others she can demonstrate the power in her voice. DeLaria's lower range is particularly interesting to hear.

Aiding and abetting her on this recording are Gil Goldstein (piano), Christian McBride (bass), Bill Stewart (drums), Bashiri Johnson (percussion), and Stefon Harris (marimba), plus Blake and Rogers. Gil Goldstein did the song arrangements on all but two of the tracks. The musicians are given lots of room to improvise and there is a genuine sense of enjoyment that emanates from the grooves.

According to DeLaria, one of the requirements for the material selection was that each song "had to swing. The main problem is that all pop/rock songs do not swing. Most of them do not even tell a story in their lyrics or their melodies (which are mostly fragmented), and certainly not their chord changes, which in most cases are nonexistent. This recording is an interesting experiment, but there are so many "standard" standards that are waiting to be most ably interpreted by Lea DeLaria.

The vocalist's performance at Smoke last month was a high-energy affair. She appeared with the trio of pianist Janice Friedman, drummer Barbara Marjon, and bassist Debbie Kennedy. DeLaria has a commanding stage presence and a desire to have a swinging good time, which extends to both the musicians and the audience. This message obviously got across, because this evening's audience was quite responsive.

The set was comprised of selections from Double Standards, but there was a difference between the feel of the recording and this live performance. DeLaria's up front personality comes to the fore more readily in person. Starting off with "I'm Just A Girl, DeLaria bounced, sang, and scatted her way through "Call Me. Her rendition of "Dancing Barefoot featured some good piano work by Janice Friedman. As on the CD, DeLaria encourages her musicians to play their best and gives them room to do so. (And she's their best audience.)

Midway through this set, DeLaria introduced a guest artist—guitarist Sheryl Bailey—who performed an innovative solo on "Jumpin' With Symphony Sid. DeLaria turned in an impressive scat solo. This was followed by a very soulful interpretation of "Philadelphia. The set was topped off by a rousing version of "Been Caught Stealing, which gave DeLaria another opportunity to display her amazing chops.

Track Listing: Dancing Barefoot; Kiko and the Lavender Moon; Call Me; Philadelphia; Just a Girl; Been Caught Stealing; Black Hole Sun; People Are Strange; Tattooed Love Boys; Alliance; Longview.

Personnel: Lea DeLaria: vocals; Seamus Blake: tenor saxophone; Gil Goldstein: piano, accordion, keyboards, Fender Rhodes; Bill Hayes: glass harmonica; Bashiri Johnson: percussion; Christian McBride: bass; Adam Rogers: guitar.

Title: Double Standards | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Telarc Records

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