Dena Derose

Another World
(Sharp Nine Records; 1999)

TRACKS:


More About Another World And Dena DeRose

Dena DeRose is special. It's not just that she is an accomplished jazz singer --- which she is --- and neither is it because she is a gifted jazz pianist --- although she's that too. While we're at it, Dena is also a talented arranger and songwriter. The principal reason, though, for claiming she is special stems from the fact that she is that most unusual of artists, a superb jazz singer-pianist. Unusual? Yes, because far from merely comping to her vocal ines, Dena grants equal opportunities to voice and piano --- sometimes using the piano as a second voice, at other times using her voice instrumentally. It is clear from everything she does on Another World that a fine jazz intellect is at work; and what's more underlying it all is a deep emotional commitment to the music.

Of course, all jazz musicians need commitment as they battle for recognition. In Dena's case, however, she has had to overcome a daunting two-year disruption to her piano career caused by severe problems with her hands that required surgery. At that time, Dena was already making her name as a pianist; yet far from giving up, she turned this detour to her advantage by starting to sing. Not suprisingly, given the obstacles over which she has triumphed. Dena's strength of purpose and of character gleam through every note she plays and sings.

The selection of songs on this album favors the great standards (which after all, are called great for a reason). Dena deftly applies her arranging talents, augmented by Steve Davis' horn arrangements, to draw a succession of facinating, thought provoking and emotionally satisfying variations on some familiar themes. Importantly, the artistic success of Dena's arrangements lies in the fact that while they are invariably adventurous, they are never pretentious.

A glues-drenched You Don't Know What Love Is opens the program, with Steve Wilson's soprano saxophone helping to set the mood. His soulful, melodic lines blend superbly with Dena's vocal and in his long, inventive solo the burnished ound of his horn generates intense atmospheric warmth. Dena digs in on her solo, then brings the lyric back in at the bridge before a dramatic, a capella crescendo at the finish. Welcome to Dena's world.

In the Wee Small Hours begins with a hush as Dena puts her own delicate stamp on the melody. The scene changes as the rhythm section kicks up a powerful vamp over which Steve Davis takes a stirring trombone solo. (In addition to leading his own band, Steve who comes from Dena's home town of Binghamton, NY, has worked with many leading artists, including Jackie McLean, and is currently a member of Chick Corea's Origin band.) At the song's end, the opening mood is briefly resestablished before the entire ensemble rises to a strong climax of four-in-the-morning discord.

A syncopated tom-tom pattern introduces More Than You Know. The horns enter and swell behind Dena, supporting her cool reading of the melody. The rhythm goes Latin for Steve Wilson's bustling and expressive alto saxophone solo and Dena's spiky turn on the piano, before Dena returns with the lyric at the bridge --- soaring above the fray.



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