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Denise Donatelli: What Lies Within

Marcia Hillman By

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Every now and then—in the sea of good but interchangeable, up-and-coming female vocalists—arrives a distinctive voice. Denise Donatelli is such a voice. Backed by Geoffrey Keezer (piano/arranger), Carl Saunders (trumpet), Bob Sheppard (reeds), Peter Sprague (guitar), Hamilton Price (bass), Marvin "Smitty" Smith (drums), Carlos Del Rosario (organ), Giovanna Clayton (cello) and Alex Acuna (percussion), the LA-based singer sails through an interesting and unhackneyed selection of material.

As the liner notes indicate, Donatelli chooses to "be another instrument." This approach is reminiscent of Stan Kenton's work with vocalist June Christy. However, Donatelli sounds like no other instrument. She possesses a silky smooth quality that enables her to sing anything, is lyric-driven and gifted with perfect pitch and wonderful timing.

The CD is well-crafted and paced to maintain attention. The selections demonstrate how well Donatelli can handle any kind of material—possibly even singing the telephone book. The underdone standard ballad "My Shining Hour," here in swinging up-tempo fashion with scatting in the final bars, is an attention-grabbing starter. The cute little item "I Love It When You Dance That Way," shows off Donatelli's sense of humor and features some voice and bass collaboration. Her sensitive rendition of "We'll Be Together Again" in a trio setting, featuring some fine work by Price, can take the breath away. But Donatelli can bop with the best of them as on Clifford Brown's "Daahoud" (done here as "Beloved," with a lyric by Meredith D'Ambrosio). Notable also is her turn on a funky blues called "Be Cool," on which Saunders' muted trumpet shines.

Keezer's fine piano contributions and arranging are heard throughout the CD, but it is Donatelli's voice that stands out, having an enveloping power. Perhaps a CD done in a trio setting might be a thought for a future offering. At any rate, there will be more to be heard from Donatelli—a welcome and needed arrival.

Track Listing: My Shining Hour; Sails; Crystal Silence; I Love It When You Dance That Way; We'll Be Together Again; Like An Old Song; Beloved (Daahoud); Four Walls; Be Cool; Make This City Ours Tonight; This Lament.

Personnel: Geoffrey Keezer: piano, arranger; Carl Saunders: trumpet; Bob Sheppard: reeds; Peter Sprague: guitar; Hamilton Price: bass; Marvin "Smitty" Smith: drums; Carlos Del Rosario: organ; Giovanna Clayton: cello; Alex Acuna: percussion.

Title: What Lies Within | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Savant Records

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