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Danielle Reich: This Year’s Kisses

C. Michael Bailey By

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There is something strange going on in Houston, Texas. It must be the heat and humidity, stimulating the fecund creative jazz spirits that give rise to the likes of Larry Slezak (No Worries (Self Produced, 2009)), Jacqui Sutton (Billie & Dolly (Self Produced, 2010)), Henry Darragh Tell Her More Me (A-Train Creative, 2010)), and, now vocalist Danielle Reich with This Year's Kisses.

There is an intersection where all this Texas talent meets, in yet another Texan, transplanted to New York City, trumpeter/producer Carol Morgan (Opening (Blue Bamboo Music, 2010)). She plays trumpet and produces This Year's Kisses, revealing new facets to her considerable talent and the considerable talent with whom she associates.

Our protagonist here, singer Reich, has a musical approach as perfectly balanced and graceful as her classically-informed and jazz-honed mezzo voice. Reich's singing is not so much conservative as it is serious, executed in a very relaxed and confident manner. She is not given to unnecessary fits of scat and vocalese. She is devoted to the melody, but not slavishly so. Reich avoids the over-reverence which can have a stifling effect on performance, opting instead for a very open and friendly singing manner. The result is a most satisfying music experience by one who has worked hard at it.

Reich's repertoire is straight from the center of The Great American Songbook. Her treatments are refreshingly accessible, superbly arranged and immediately enjoyable. "On The Street Where You Live," "If I Loved You," "How Long Has This Been Going On," "All or Nothing at All" are all given a master's clinic treatment. Piquant and desirable, Reich conveys these old lyrics seamlessly.

Reich employs her classical/technical abilities with care. Often the transition from classical repertoire to jazz is treacherous, having less than positive results. Not so here. Reich engages these songs with a steady jazz hand, never slipping off into the coloratura flourishes that often plague lesser classical cum jazz vocalists. Where her classical training does benefit her are on the foreign language pieces; her Spanish on "Sabor A Mi" and French on "Ne Me Quitte Pas" flawless and elegant.

At the musical level, pianist Andrew Lienhard's effortless musicality holds this recital with a firm yet swinging grasp. Morgan's trumpet playing, like her production, is smartly compact and focused, her tart trumpet sound and the careful abandon of her playing giving performances a patina of gold. Seth Paytner's tenor saxophone proves adventuresome on "Alone Together," as does David Craig's bass solo. The creative pinnacle of the disc is the Lienhard-arranged mash-up of Thelonious Monk's "Green Chimneys" with the Romberg/Hammerstein standard, "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise." This is high art of the jazz variety—or any variety.

Track Listing: On The Street Where You Live; If I Loved You; How Long Has This Been Going On; Alone Together; Sabor A Mí; Crazy He Calls Me; Speak Low; This Year's Kisses; Ne Me Quitte Pas; All Or Nothing At All; At Seventeen; Green Chimneys/Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise.

Personnel: Danielle Reich: vocals; Seth Paynter: tenor saxophone; Carol Morgan: trumpet; Andrew Leinhard: piano; David Craig: bass; Daleton Lee: drums.

Title: This Year’s Kisses | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Self Produced

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