Showstoppers, Dee Daniels’ jazz liven Palm Beach Pops concert at the Kravis Center

by David A. Frye
Special to the Palm Beach Daily News
February 18, 2009

The second half of the program was dedicated to the “Great Ladies of Swing,” Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, with guest soloist Dee Daniels returning to the Pops stage.

Daniels, a vocalist with a four-octave range, has hung and sung with many of the best in the business, including Vaughan.

In short, the Great American Songbook is in her DNA. But while the easiest thing for a performer with this kind of assignment to do is to attempt to re-create the essence of the singers – or worse, slip into impressions of them – Daniels truly honored these “great ladies” by putting her own distinctive style on songs they made famous. The result was a performance that was amazingly fresh and fun.

Starting off with a sassy, up-tempo version of Lee’s “There’ll Be Some Changes Made”, Daniels brought a touch of Cab Calloway swagger to the steamy “Fever” – a tall, cool glass of sassafras in a beautiful silver gown that played perfectly against the projected patterns of the lighting design by the Kravis in-house team.

From there, the evening gradually gained momentum from one showstopper to another, from Vaughan’s “Sweet Georgia Brown” to the Duke Ellington ballad, “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)”. The seasoned songstress sat in on piano for a gospel-tinged pass on the Billie Holiday signature, “God Bless The Child”, and then went on to nail a Fitzgerald medley that ended with “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man”, which was arguably the highlight of an evening filled with highlights.

Overall, this thoroughly enjoyable program, which was balanced in content and beautifully executed, is exactly the kind of offering that could enable the Palm Beach Pops to survive – and perhaps even thrive – in an economic climate many see as becoming increasingly difficult for the arts.