Dena DeRose: Ode to the Road

Jack Bowers By

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Dena DeRose: Ode to the Road
To those who may have wondered what ever happened to singer / pianist Dena DeRose, the answer is nothing—and everything. DeRose has lived for the last fifteen years in Graz, Austria, where she is professor of jazz voice at the University of Music and the Performing Arts. She still tours frequently, sometimes returning "home" to the states for gigs and / or record dates. Along the way, DeRose has met and befriended a sizable number of talented artists, three of whom—vocalist Sheila Jordan, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and tenor saxophonist Houston Person—make admirable guest appearances on Ode to the Road, DeRose's eleventh album as leader of her own groups, in this case her long-time working trio with bassist Martin Wind and drummer Matt Wilson.

Looking back on her many years as a touring musician and the many friends she had made, DeRose decided to frame her latest recording as an Ode to the Road, using a clever song of that name by Alan Broadbent / Mark Murphy as its opening number. As for the rest, they are the sort of tunes one would expect to hear in many a nightspot wherein a touring group was performing—largely unsung but worthy of a far greater audience. They include a second charmer by Broadbent / Murphy ("Don't Ask Why"), two enchanting themes by the late great Bob Dorough (Nothing Like You," "Small Day Tomorrow"), Al Cohn's saucy "Cross Me Off Your List," Roger Kellaway's seductive "I Have the Feeling I've Been Here Before," and a pair of bright and lively tunes by DeRose herself ("That Second Look," "A Tip of the Hat"). On a somewhat more familiar plane are the film themes "The Way We Were" and "The Days of Wine and Roses" and the swing era staple "All God's Chillun Got Rhythm," blended with Miles Davis' "Willie Leaps." "Chillun" features Jordan's nimble sparring with DeRose, as does "Small Day Tomorrow."

Pelt is exemplary on "Nothing Like You" and "Cross Me Off Your List," Person equally at home on "The Way We Were" and "Days of Wine and Roses." Wind and Wilson are rock-solid in support, and Wind solos smartly on "All God's Chillun," "That Second Look," "Small Day Tomorrow" (arco), "I've Been Here Before" and "A Tip of the Hat" (on which Wilson also weighs in with a strong solo). As for DeRose, it's hard to decide whether she's a more gifted singer, pianist or composer, as she masters each element remarkably well. From this vantage point, the piano wins in a photo finish. But that's a matter of opinion, not necessarily fact. The fact is, Ode to the Road is positively delightful, and an explicit reminder that Dena DeRose remains alive, well and radiant as ever.

Dena DeRose: vocals, piano; Martin Wind: bass; Matt Wilson: drums; Sheila Jordan: vocals (4, 6); Houston Person: tenor saxophone (7, 11); Jeremy Pelt: trumpet (2, 8).

Track Listing

Ode to the Road; Nothing Like You; Don’t Ask Why; All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm / Little Willie Leaps; That Second Look; Small Day Tomorrow; The Way We Were; Cross Me Off Your List; I Have the Feeling I’ve Been Here Before; A Tip of the Hat; The Days of Wine and Roses.


Dena DeRose: voice / vocals; Martin Wind: bass, acoustic; Matt Wilson: drums; Jeremy Pelt: trumpet; Houston Person: saxophone, tenor; Sheila Jordan: voice / vocals.

Album information

Title: Ode to the Road | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: HighNote Records

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