Jazz CD Reviews – late May 2015
May 24, 2015
Michael Dees The Dream I Dreamed (Jazzed Media JM 1071)
Although only recently becoming a familiar name to all who love to hear good songs well sung, Michael Dees has been around for a long time and heard by unknowing millions. During these many years in the business, dating back to the late 1960s, he was often heard singing on film and television soundtracks. He sang What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life on the soundtrack of the 1969 film, The Happy Ending, and the title song for the 1970 film, A Walk In The Spring Rain; he appeared on The Steve Allen Show; and he recorded albums for Dot Records and Capitol Records, the latter including 1968’s Talk To Me Baby. In later decades, Michael was heard on the soundtrack of Sabrina (1995) and he provided the singing voice, performing One For My Baby And One More For The Road, for actor Ray Liotta who played the role of Frank Sinatra in The Rat Pack (1998). He also recorded a fine album in 2002 for Mack Records, One Single Rose, but that was a dozen or so years ago and since then only those lucky enough to catch him live at jazz and supper clubs in and around Los Angeles and Palm Springs (where he now lives) have heard him. Now, there is a new album, recorded in late 2014, that shows another facet of this remarkable artist’s talent. Although his past performances have found Michael singing the great standards, he is also an accomplished songwriter and that particular talent is on vivid display on The Dream I Dreamed, all the songs on which are his compositions. And good songs they are, too, ranging through romantic ballads, I Miss You, Where Love Goes, I’m Home, and the especially attractive I Stay, to gently bouncing swingers, In A Moment, So Crazy For You, Back In New Orleans. Michael is accompanied by front-rank studio and jazz musicians: pianist Terry Trotter, bassist Chuck Berghofer, and drummer Steve Schaeffer, with guest trumpeters Steve Huffsteter and Sal Marquez, tenor saxophonists Chuck Manning, Bob Sheppard and Doug Webb, and percussionist Don Williams. Although Michael displays maturity with his interpretation of the lyrics he sings (here his own – elsewhere those of others), his lithe and fresh vocal sound is something many will love and certainly belies whatever age it might say on his passport.
Rebecca DuMaine The Consequence Of You (Summit DCD 654)
After some years working in regional theater as both actor and educator, Rebecca DuMaine began developing a latent interest in the standards of the Great American Songbook and in jazz. This interest had simmered throughout her childhood, thanks in large part to her father, Dave Miller, Bay Area pianist (and, when off-stage, successful attorney). Although an established teacher at New York’s Actors Studio, Rebecca developed her interest in jazz singing, taking particular note of the understated work of singers like Irene Kral and Peggy Lee, identifying an innate ability to inhabit a song’s lyric in a manner that mirrored her acting talent. Back on the west coast in 2008, she began working with her father’s trio and signed with Summit Records, making two albums, Deed I Do in 2011, and Better Than Anything in 2013. This new partnership was a learning curve for father and daughter. Although well known locally for many years as trio leader and accompanist to visiting jazzmen, Dave was not used to accompanying a singer but he reveled in the new demands. While Rebecca had acted on stage in all manner of productions, including Shakespeare, she was now performing in a very exposed setting for a very different audience. To help her master her new craft, she studied with Madeline Eastman and Kitty Margolis, finding work wherever she could. That father and daughter have succeeded superbly is evident from every note played and sung on The Consequence Of You. Ably supported by guitarist Brad Buethe, bassist Mario Suraci, and drummer Bill Belasco, Rebecca performs songs including There Will Never Be Another You, Exactly Like You, You’ve Changed, and Too Close For Comfort. To all the songs, many warmly familiar, she brings intelligent appreciation of the lyrics and, together with Dave and the other instrumentalists, finds the right balance twixt melody and rhythm that turns this into a jazz outing with many effective moments that allow everyone to share in the spotlight, notably in the many well-taken solos for Piano and guitar. These artists are billed as ‘The Dave Miller Trio with Rebecca DuMaine’ and this is how it should be because this is not a singer with backing group but a quartet of like-minded musicians wholly in tune with one another and with the music they perform.
Judy Wexler What I See (Jazzed Media JM 1065)
Although an established singer, Judy Wexler, has made far too few records and this one, released a couple of years ago, has not received the attention it so richly deserves. The songs choice is interesting – none overused, all melodically and lyrically pleasing. Among them are King Pleasure’s Tomorrow Is Another Day, Dory and André Previn’s Just For Now, Benny Carter’s Another Time, Another Place, and The Moon Is Made Of Gold by Richard Jones. Judy’s vocal sound is warmly enfolding, yet has a sinewy directness, suggesting an underlying strength of character. The accompanying instrumentalists providing an ideal frame for the musical pictures the singer paints are pianist Jeff Colella, guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Steve Hass, with guests trumpeter Ron Stout, bass clarinetist Bob Sheppard, trombonist Scott Whitfield and percussionist Billy Hulting. Approaching the songs directly, with no unnecessary frills, Judy clearly revels in the subtleties of music and lyrics and takes full advantage of Jeff Colella’s fluid and spacious arrangements. Lovely stuff and if you missed it on its 2013 release now’s the time to seek to correct that omission.
For more on all these artists, including booking, see Mouthpiece Music or the artists’ websites (as highlighted above). To order CDs see label sites, Jazzed Media and Summit, or the usual walk-in and on-line stores, the latter including Amazon.