Jazzy blends of Daniels with SJO

Dee Daniels shows off her broad style range alongside the Spokane Jazz Orchestra , Concert Review - Spokane Jazz Orchestra and Dee Daniels , Saturday, Oct. 8 at the Met, By Don Adair -

Correspondent For the first concert of its 20th season, the Spokane Jazz Orchestra paired with vocalist Dee Daniels. It was a good choice: Big bands and female singers have a long, rich tradition and together can cover a broad range of styles.

The big band opened Saturday with a confident, well-played set. Daniels followed with an expanded, though somewhat toned-down version of the kind of performance that has made her a favorite at the Lionel Hampton/University of Idaho Jazz Festival.

Daniels and the big band strode through an evenly paced collection of ballads, blues, standards and well-written originals.

She is a dusky-voiced singer with a four-octave range, the extremes of which she uses with tasteful restraint.

She came out swinging with upbeat versions of "Night In Tunisia" and "Don’t Get Around Much Anymore" before sliding into a lovely, gospel-tinged version of "Georgia."

"Georgia" opened with a nice groove from the rhythm section before the fluid SJO sax section opened the door for the trombones and trumpets - the current version of the SJO big band features lovely section playing. Daniels floated an inventive melody over the big band, shifting keys as easily as stepping off a moving sidewalk.

While Daniels favors a churchy but straightforward reading of a lyric, her rhythm-section-backed rendition of "Autumn Leaves" wandered boldly into Betty Carter territory, as her improvised vocal gradually slipped free of its lyrical moorings. Her horn-like vocal solo turned increasingly wordless before skipping the line over into a beautiful piece of scat singing.

In the right hands, this kind of vocalizing is thrilling. And while it isn’t to everyone’s taste, it is one place where Daniels really distinguishes herself from the pack.

She does so from behind the piano, too. She’s been playing church piano since she was a kid and she takes her place on the stool as if born to it.

Replacing Arnie Carruthers at the helm of the rhythm section, she performed her showpiece number, a soaring original blues titled "Love Ain’t Love Without You." Her blue-noted intro was underlined by sweet-comping guitarist Paul Landsberg and drummer Scott Jones, who clocked a quiet rhythm on the rim of his snare.

Following a handsome Landsberg solo (one of pleasures of Daniels’ work with the rhythm section was watching the impressive Landsberg step forward), she took flight into the upper reaches of her impressive range. Daniels is effortless and fluid in reaches that defy other singers.