At the age of 21, vocalist Dana Lauren has a command of her instrument that many professional singers twice her age would envy. Lauren has a voice that's one part Roberta Gambarini and one part Diana Krall, with a dash of soul thrown in to spice things up, and she puts it good use on this ten song program. Her debut albumStairway To The Stars (Dana Lauren, 2008)produced by and featuring trumpeter Arturo Sandovalcovered oft-performed standards like "How High The Moon," "Devil May Care" and "Corcovado" but the follow-up digs a little deeper into the catalogs of Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers and the like. A few heavily covered favorites, like "That Old Black Magic" and "On The Sunny Side Of The Street," make an appearance but they're given facelifts that keep them from coming across as stale.
Pianist Manuel Valera arranged several tunes and, along with guitarist Will Graefe, provides wonderful harmonic support for Lauren's vocal endeavors. Tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm isin a senseLauren's singing partner and his cheery, jubilant saxophone dances around her voice and/or solos on the majority of these songs. Valera's arrangement of "That Old Black Magic" moves from a half-time Latin feel to a double time swing feel. Frahm's solo is framed, for the most part, over the Latin feel and Valera moves well over the swing pulse. Lauren scats over the outro as drummer Jake Goldblas solos over Valera's vamping piano riff. Graefe gently delineates his arpeggiated guitar chords underneath Lauren's voice as "Isn't This A Lovely Day" gets underway. Her delivery of the lyrics sounds genuine as can be and she demonstrates rhythmic assurance and attaches just the right amount of ornamental attributes to her delivery. Sunny optimism carries over into "There's A Small Hotel" and Valera's chiming piano riff works perfectly here.
The centerpiece of the album is Lauren's arrangement for "On The Sunny Side Of The Street." This lighthearted pas de deux for bass and voice is sheer magic, with Lauren's voice moving over guest bassist Christian McBride. McBride has some bounce to his step and the pair begin as separate entities but wind up in a more comfortably interactive state by the end of the performance. A little more reverb seems to be present on the title track, as Valera provides some romantic supper-club piano behind Lauren's voice at the outset. When upbeat swing becomes the order of the day, the whole band is there to make all the hits and provide superb accompaniment. Bassist Luques Curtis steps out for a solo on "I Had The Craziest Dream," performed with a comfortable mid-tempo swing feel, and Lauren delivers another A+ performance here. The vocal maneuvers on It's You Or No One make it easy to see why Sandoval and McBride were so taken with the enchanting talents of Dana Lauren.
That Old Black Magic; Isn't This A Lovely Day; There's A Small Hotel; Give Me The Simple Life; Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful/The Sweetest Sounds; On The Sunny Side Of The Street; It's You Or No One; In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning; I Had The Craziest Dream; Mr. Paganini.
Dana Lauren: vocals; Joel Frahm: tenor saxophone; Manuel Valera: piano; Will Graefe: guitar; Luques Curtis: bass (1-5, 7-10); Jake Goldblas: drums; Christian McBride (6).