The marriage of the American Popular Songbook and the jazz tradition of improvisation and innovation continue to bear exquisite fruit on singer/pianist Dena DeRose’s third recording for the Sharp Nine imprint. DeRose uses the basic structure of the songs as a point of departure in fashioning treatments that retain the spirit of the material while taking decidedly individualistic turns. From ballads to up-tempo swingers, she forsakes vocal pyrotechnics in favor of telling a story, usually one with some delightful idiosyncrasies.
DeRose’s magic is strikingly apparent on “Day In Day Out,” where, accompanied only by the bass of Dwayne Burno and drummer Mark Taylor, she expresses the breathless intensity of a new love affair by playfully enunciating the lyrics of the first verse at a rapid pace and with flawless diction. The rhythmic flexibility of her approach is also apparent on “I’ve Never Been In Love Before,” as her voice ricochets off of the melodic-sounding drums of Matt Wilson, and sustains the confused yet exuberant mood when her piano and Burno’s bass join the mix.
An integral part of the success of DeRose’s buoyant, extroverted side is a willingness to open things up with extended instrumental turns by members of the band as well as her own formidable skills as a pianist. Vibraphonist Joe Locke’s solo on “Detour Ahead” is a brilliant amalgam of rapid, single-note lines and more relaxed interludes. Joel Frahm’s tenor saxophone charges through several choruses during “Day In Day Out,” yet stays perfectly in synch with the jubilance of DeRose’s vocal. The leader’s piano on “Touch of Your Lips” contains edgy, bebop phrases and an inclination to play against the relaxed groove established by Burno and Taylor.
DeRose’s approach to ballads is somewhat more conventional but just as effective. She begins “If I Should Lose You” by caressing each and every word, and with subtle support from Burno and Wilson, slowly builds the song to a satisfying climax. The set’s closer, “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?,” is a beautiful duet between DeRose’s voice and Locke’s vibes. Floating over his sparse, ethereal accompaniment, she poignantly conveys tenderness and devotion.
If I Should Lose You; Detour Ahead; I've Never Been In Love Before; I Can See Clearly Now; With a Smile; Day In Day Out; If You Love Me; Touch of Your Lips; Alone Together; What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?
Dena DeRose--piano/vocals; Joe Locke--vibes (2,4,5,10); Joel Frahm--tenor saxophone (4,6),soprano saxophone (5); Jim Rotondi--trumpet (4,9); Dwayne Burno--bass, electric bass; Mark Taylor--drums (6,8); Matt Wilson--drums (except 6,8).