Dena DeRose’s third CD for Sharp Nine boasts some uncommonly clever arrangements. The biggest surprise is "Detour Ahead," which gets a double-time treatment. Dwayne Burno plays electric bass, Matt Wilson funks it up with a syncopated snare drum rhythm, and Joe Locke weighs in with an adroit vibes solo. On the second A section, when DeRose sings the lyrics "Wake up, slow down," the band does just that — it slows down, as if someone flipped the switch from 45 to 33 RPM. Then, like a rubber band, it snaps back to the original tempo in the space of two or three bars. A little campy? Yes, but it illustrates the group's superb cohesion and grabs the listener’s attention for sure. (Matt Wilson’s idea?) Another highlight is the title track, a 1972 hit single by Johnny Nash that DeRose and crew work over with moody reharmonizations and a slow, magical pulse. Saxophonist Joel Frahm and trumpeter Jim Rotondi add depth and color while Locke fills in the spaces.
When DeRose approaches a standard, it’s either with old-school fidelity ("Day In, Day Out," "The Touch of Your Lips") or a hip, modern edge ("Alone Together"). Her closing vocal/vibes duo with Joe Locke on "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life" is a treat, and her choice of Edith Piaf’s "If You Love Me" is off the beaten track. On piano DeRose displays refined skills as a rhythm section member and has an engaging, understated solo style. "I’ve Never Been in Love Before" and "The Touch of Your Lips" both find DeRose scatting along with her piano lines. Of course, lots of players mumble along with what they’re playing, but this is the sound of a real vocalist improvising, and the effect is very pretty, not to mention totally distinctive.
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).