Commanding a soothing, lush voice capable of tenderizing the lyrics of any song, Denise Donatelli does a wonderful job on When Light are Low, a collaboration with friend and musical director Geoffrey Keezer. The album has received two Grammy nominations, one of which is for "Best Vocal Jazz Album," leaving no doubt that this is indeed an exceptional recording. The other Grammy nod is for "Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying A Vocalist," for Keezer's arrangement of Billie Holiday's classic, "Don't Explain."
Iin addition to producing and arranging, Keezer also performs on piano, and crafts a variety of instrumental combinations in support of Donatelli, including trumpet , saxophone and rhythm section; a vocal choir; guitar and percussion; solo piano; and string quintet. Fronting a quartet featuring guitarist Peter Sprague, Donatelli kicks the music off with a swinging rendition of "It's You or No One," spicing it up with some appreciable scatting. On "Don't Explain," the vocalist shows her softer side, emotionally delivering its lyrics, with Sprague and guest flugelhonist Ingrid Jensen providing splendid accompaniment.
The title track is especially brilliant, surrendering an outstanding sound that features Ron Blake on a series of burnished tenor solos. The strings and background vocals come to the forefront on Sting's pop song "Big Lie, Small World," while Keezer and Donatelli perform a delicious duet on "Why Did I Choose You," perhaps a reference as to why these two are such a sparkling musical force. "The Telephone Song," sung as a bossa, delivers a nice buzz and features Sprague, and Jon Wikan on pandeiro. Other notable tracks include "Forward, Like So" and Cedar Walton's "Enchantment (Firm Roots)," wrapping up a special album from a special vocalist.
The Keezer-Donatelli collaboration proves to be a winning combination once again as the Grammy attention about When Lights are Low most certainly affirms. There are no low lights here, as Denise Donatelli's star continues to rise and, with this recording, shine brightly.
It's You or No One; Don't Explain; When Lights are Low; Big Lie, Small World; Why Did I Choose You?; I Wish I Were in Love Again; Kisses (Cantor Da Noite; Forward, Like So; The Telephone Song; The Bed I Made; Enchantment (Firm Roots).
Denise Donatelli: vocal; Geoffrey Keezer: piano/Rhodes; Peter Sprague: guitar;Hamilton Price: bass/electric bass (10); Jon Wikan: drums/percussion; Jon Wikan:pandeiro (9); Susan Wulff: double bass (2, 7); Giovanni Clayton: cello (2,7); Roland Kato: viola (2, 7): Alma Lisa Fernandez: viola (2,7); Matthew Duckles: viola (2, 7); Julia Dollison: vocals (4, 10); Kerry Marsh: vocal (4, 10); Ingrid Jensen: flugelhorn (2); Phil O'Connor: bass clarinet (4, 10); Ron Blake: soprano sax (7).
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