The Singer-Pianists – Take 3

March 23, 2014

In a musical world where originality is much rarer than publicists would have us believe, it is always a delight to hear a singer-pianist as gifted as Dena DeRose. Importantly, Dena is not simply a pianist who sings; neither is she a singer who happens to accompany herself from the piano. Rather, she is a hugely talented jazz pianist who could (and, indeed, has) made her name as such. She is also a distinctive and distinguished jazz singer, whose work in this form would be highly collectible regardless of how she was accompanied. That Dena can bring these two marvelous assets together with skill and flair puts her in a class of very special artists.another world

Some time ago, I was privileged to be invited to write the liner notes for Dena’s Another World (Sharp Nine CD 1016-2) in 1999, and there I drew attention to the aplomb with which she performed the difficult dual role. It is a role that she achieves with seemingly effortless ease, and if this were not enough, she is also a skilled arranger, creating spacious settings for the musical delights presented by herself and her accompanists who include Ingrid Jensen, Steve Wilson and Steve Davis. On a later album, 2000’s I Can See Clearly Now (Sharp Nine CD 1018-2), Dena is again surrounded by strikingly gifted fellow musicians, among them Jim Rotondi and Joe Locke. clearly nowAlso apparent here is how much Dena has grown between these albums, and it is a growth that continues with Love’s Holiday (Sharp Nine CD 1024-2), a lovely 2002 set mainly of standards, through which she demonstrates how far ahead she was then of her contemporaries in the over-populated world of jazz singing. Also here, Dena’s arranging talent is brought into the spotlight as she performs songs heard a thousand times before, letting her listeners hear Lover, I Thought About You, I Didn’t Know What Time It Was, and The Nearness Of You, as if they were fresh from their composers’ pens. On this CD, Dena is again aided by an outstanding instrumental team that includes Peter Washington, Matt Wilson, Tony Kadleck, and Sara Della Posta, while Rotondi, Locke and Davis all appear again.loves holiday

As is well known, Dena became a singer in an accidental way. As she was starting to make her mark as a pianist, illness prevented her from playing for a while and instead she began to sing. By the time she was able to resume playing, her qualities as a singer had been recognized by audiences. Importantly, she, too, had realized that this previously undeveloped talent was one of real merit. From that moment on she became one of the best singer-pianists in jazz today. Indeed, however far back one might care to spread the net, Dena DeRose is a major presence in that important field.

Two live sets very well worth the attention of music lovers are Live At The Jazz Standard Volumes 1 & 2 (MaxJazz Records MX1 504 & 505), recorded in 2007, and Travelin’ Light (MaxJazz Records MX1 507), recorded in 2012. On the date recorded at New York’s The Jazz Standard, Dena is joined by bassist Martin Wind and drummer Matt Wilson with saxophonist Joel Frahm sitting in on a few numbers. Among the songs performed are Speak Low, Alone Together, Green Dolphin Street, Lover and a marvelous interpretation of Laughing At Life. Surprisingly, Dena had not been recorded unaccompanied until Travelin’ Light, a set performed at Antwerp’s The Chromatic Attic. This album as much as any confirms that hearing Dena is an exceptional experience; her voice is warm and engaging, her interpretations, both vocally and instrumentally, are musically and emotionally satisfying.ddr-jazzstandard

In all of this delightful music making, Dena subtly underlines her respect for the intentions of the composer and lyricist, yet still makes the songs entirely her own in a way that is wholly charming. And all the while, she stamps her own jazz feeling firmly upon the material.trav-light

For more information, visit Dena’s website and/or those of Sharp Nine and MaxJazz. As always, CDs can be bought from various walk-in and on-line stores, including Amazon.




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