Dee Daniels, an accomplished hidden jewel in the crown, passionately delivers timeless performances in multiple genres that include: jazz, blues, gospel, and her original compositions. A sultry songsmith and master of storytelling, she has performed for royalty and international dignitaries on multiple occasions, and has an extensive list of international performances with combos and big bands. She crossed the threshold of the classical world with the creation of her fabulous Symphony Pops programs, “Great Ladies of Swing” and “The Great American Swing Book”, and has performed and recorded with orchestras throughout North America and abroad. In addition to her accredited presence and magnetic prowess on keys, Daniels adds a spellbinding four-octave vocal range to her potent, natural and unique spin on every song she touches. Her international career includes performances across Europe, the United Kingdom, Russia, Australia, South America, Hong Kong, Japan, twelve African countries, and throughout North America.
Her vocal style was born deep in the gospel roots of her stepfather’s Baptist church choir in Oakland, California, refined through the R&B era, and smoothly polished during a five-year stay in The Netherlands and Belgium from 1982 to 1987. Dee Daniels has performed and/or recorded with the who’s who of the Jazz world including Jazz legends: Benny Green, Houston Person, John Clayton, Russell Malone, Wycliffe Gordon, Cyrus Chestnut, Clark Terry, Ken Peplowski, Kenny Barron, Bill Mays, Jeff Clayton, Benny Golson, Grady Tate, Toots Thielemans, Jeff Hamilton, Monty Alexander, Steve Wilson, Marvin Stamm, Lewis Nash, Kenny Washington, Norman Simmons, Ben Riley, Dennis MacKrel, Steve Davis, Martin Wind, Bucky Pizzarelli, Helen Sung, Christian McBride, David Young, Neil Swainson and many more.
Dee Daniels served on the President's Advisory Council for the Jazz Education Network (JEN) from 2016 - 2018; was Artistic Director for the west coast’s DeMiero Jazz Fest from 2011 to 2018; the 2010 recipient of an Atlanta Theater’s Suzi Bass Award nomination; the 2009 receipt of an Honorary Doctorate Degree of Fine Arts and 2008 President’s Award, both from Capilano University; and a recipient of the prestigious and most coveted Commemorative Medal for the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Her 2003 induction into the University of Montana’s School of Fine Arts Hall of Honor, the 1997 University of Montana Distinguished Alumni Award; the 2002 inductee into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame and member of Vancouver’s, Granville Street Walk of Fame are a testament to her dedication to her musical career.
Dee has cultivated a diverse career that has also seen her on theatre stages including the 2009 premiere of New York choreographer, Twyla Tharp’s, musical, Come Fly Away, the critically acclaimed musical, Wang Dang Doodle at the Arts Club in Vancouver, BC, as well as an inspirational speaker with a keynote address being delivered at the 2009 Women’s CEO & Senior Management Summit in Toronto, the BC Music Teachers Conference, and commencement addresses at Capilano University.
An internationally respected vocal clinician, adjudicator and mentor, Dee presents clinics, workshops, and master classes globally. She was on the faculty of the vocal department of the Aaron Copeland School of Music at Queens College (NY) 2013 - 2014. Also in 2013, she created the annual week-long Dee Daniels Vocal Jazz Workshop, and through 2017, was the donor for the Dee Daniels Jazz Vocal Scholarship at the Capilano University in North Vancouver, BC since 2001. She was the first artist to serve on the advisory board of the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival (2002 - 2008), and has received several awards for her contribution in the field of music performance, music education, and community service. Visit www.deedaniels.com for complete bio.
(53 Word Count) Dee Daniels is a jazz vocalist with a unique sound, steeped in the art of storytelling through song. Performing a mix of standards, blues, gospel, and original compositions, all with interesting and unique arrangements, she transcends musical borders when she brings her jazz styling, infused with gospel and blues flavoring to the stage.
(91 Word Count) With a palpable authenticity, towering four-octave range, and a powerful blues and gospel-tinged jazz vocal approach, Dee Daniels has built a sterling reputation amongst jazz fans and critics around the world for over three decades. Well represented throughout her career in performances and recordings with such jazz luminaries as Monty Alexander, Russell Malone, Cyrus Chestnut, Houston Person, Bucky Pizzarelli, Jeff Clayton, Ken Peplowski, Kenny Barron, to mention a few, she has also performed and/or recorded with symphony orchestras and big bands globally. Learn more about Dee at www.deedaniels.com
(112 Word Count) Dee Daniels is a unique talent who transcends musical borders when she brings her jazz styling, infused with gospel and blues flavoring, to the stage. She performs and records globally with symphony orchestras, big bands, and combos - including Monty Alexander, John Clayton, Wycliffe Gordon, Cyrus Chestnut, Eric Alexander, Ken Peplowski, and Russell Malone. Dee has many CDs as a leader to her credit, including her 2013 release, State of the Art, on Criss Cross Jazz Records, making her the first vocalist/leader in the label’s 30+ year history. Her 2014 release, Intimate Conversations, is destined for the same critical acclaim. Visit www.deedaniels.com for detailed information about Dee’s extensive career.
(250 Word Count) Dee Daniels is a crowd pleaser and a musician’s musician. Whether accompanying her self at the piano, fronting a trio, big band or symphony, she is a unique talent who transcends musical borders when she brings her jazz styling, infused with gospel and blues flavouring, to the stage.
The stepdaughter of a Baptist minister, Dee was born and raised in Oakland, CA. Though she graduated with a B.A. degree in Art Education, music was always a big part of her life. However, she didn’t discover her true calling to it until after teaching art in a Seattle high school for a year. She then joined a band, resigned her teaching position, and the rest is history!
Since that day, Dee has traveled throughout the world with her music. She has shared the stage and/or recorded with numerous legends of jazz including Houston Person, Monty Alexander, John Clayton, Russell Malone, Cyrus Chestnut, Ken Peplowski, and Lewis Nash to mention a few. Her diverse career has seen her in clubs and prestigious music halls around the world, on theater stages, television and radio, performances for royalty, international dignitaries, and on many recordings as leader or guest.
Dee has also established herself as a jazz vocalist in demand by the classical world, performing her three symphonic Pops programs with orchestras in the US, Canada, and Europe.
Organizations and institutions in and out of the music industry have recognized Dee with awards for her contributions in music, education, fundraising, and community service.
Dee Daniels Soars - Vocalist brings the good stuff Friday night by Shawn O’Neal Daily News staff writer
It’s become the natural question this time each year. If Dee Daniels doesn’t draw a standing ovation, has the University of Idaho Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival actually taken place?
Alas, the answer will have to wait for at least another year. In a night highlighted by female vocalists, the festival went to its first lady for an opening salvo and, as usual, the Vancouver, B.C. singer brought the crowd to it’s feet.
A night after teaming with singer Roberta Gambarini and saxophonist Houston Person to deliver one of the festival’s early highlights with “Honeysuckle Rose,” Daniels broke out the good stuff again Friday. Daniels’ bluesy deliver on “Dr. Feelgood” made the standing ovation that followed seem anticlimactic as the crowd had started rising to its feet before she was even finished.
Daniels was helped along by the guitar solo of Russell Malone, who seemed to revel in the song’s blues leanings. “It’s great to be here, especially when you have these guys up here with you,” Daniels said.
She was speaking of the house quartet of Malone, drummer Jeff Hamilton, bassist John Clayton and pianist Benny Green who gave way to Daniels on piano. Hamilton laid down a blistering solo on the opening tune, drawing the crowd’s early appreciation and – as Daniels did for the singers – setting the bar for the rest of the night’s instrumentalists.
More Daniels Needed by Mary Kunz, News Classical Music Critic The Buffalo News, Buffalo, New York
Dee Daniels’ voice brings to mind all the most delirious adjectives: Honeyed. Sweet. Low, rich, smooth and slow as molasses.
In “Everything Ellingto,” Daniels ended the first set with “I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good.” It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard. By the time she finished the lament, she sounded as if she were sobbing into the microphone.
To round things out, she also belted out an “Everyday I Have The Blues” that would have brought a grin to Joe Williams’ face. This woman brought the house down. The raucous blues ended with a high note the likes of which I don’t think I’ve ever heard. Daniels held that note until it was thin as ribbon, then fattened it out and pulled it down into the lowlands. That’s the blues! After that, it’ll be a little tough to go back to the band at the corner bar.
RPO swing with the best by John Pitcher, Staff Music Critic Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, NY
Jazz vocalist Dee Daniels joined the RPO to sing a selection of Basie and Ellington songs, and she had little trouble stealing the show. In the great vocal tradition of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, Daniels does much more than simply sing precisely and on pitch -- which she always did.
Instead, she used the extraordinary range and velvety texture of her voice like an instrument, wrapping its smoky texture around each word of a lyric to give the song added meaning, nuance and expression.
Showstoppers, Dee Daniels’ jazz liven Palm Beach Pops concert at the Kravis Center by David A. Frye Special to the Palm Beach Daily News
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.
CSO showcases Jazz Chanteuse Dee Daniels by Lindsay Koob Night of Nostalgia Charleston City Paper
The Charleston Symphony began its McCrady’s Pops series with a bang last Saturday, treating a fair-sized audience to a delightful evening of swing-era standards from jazz vocalist-extraordinaire Dee Daniels.
The program, entitled Great Ladies of Swing, was a tribute to four of our greatest jazz chanteuses: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, and Sarah Vaughan. Given their exalted statures, it wasn’t hard to come up with lots of great music.
No sooner had she delivered “There’ll Be Some Changes Made,” her first number, when she paused to chat with her listeners from the stage – and she soon had us laughing a lot and eating out of her hand. I kid you not: The lady stood a willowy six-foot-five (in four-inch heels), but she asked us to imagine her as a short, very voluptuous creature with a “blond bob” – even though (as she pointed out) she’s black.
She soon had us trained to respond to her questions with resounding choruses of “Yes, Dee.”
After all, she had mesmerized us by then, with that fabulous voice of hers. Her vocal foundation is a rich, often breathy alto, but she made it croon, whimper, simper, flirt, cajole, sob, growl, and scream. She indulged her stupefying four-octave range now and then – swooping up into the vocal stratosphere and laying down silky, spine-tingling strings of high notes.
I wish I had room to tell you about all the wonderful, nostalgia-ridden songs she brought to vivid life, but my faves included two Billie Holiday numbers: “God Bless the Child” and a sock-it-to-’em piece called “Gimme a Pigfoot.” Ella Fitzgerald treasures included “Summertime,” “Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good).” Among the Sarah Vaughan specialties were “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars” and “Send in the Clowns.”
The CSO – her “big band” backup for the evening – did some sweet swinging of its own under resident conductor Scott Terrell. Then there was her terrific combo: Ted Brancato at the piano, with Russell Botten on bass and Greg Williamson on drums.
Did we all have the kind of “finger-snappin’, toe-tappin’, head-bobbin’ good time” that she told us to? And do we want her to come back soon?
All together, now: “Yes, Dee.”
Dee Daniels - Vancouver’s Honeysuckle Rose by Joe Montague Riveting Riffs Magazine
Singing a jazz cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s, “Can’t Hide Love,” Dee Daniels was impressive from the time that she took to the stage, with her opening tune, at the Kay Meek Centre Studio Theatre in West Vancouver, Canada. Daniels, whose music receives plenty of airplay in both the United States and Canada, kicked off Vancouver’s Winter Song Festival, in the intimate, studio theater, which had been redesigned to take on a jazz lounge like atmosphere.
Dressed in high heels that put the statuesque Daniels well over six feet tall, sheer charcoal colored slacks, and a charcoal and red embroidered jacket, her long fingers, curled around the microphone, as she cooed the Stevie Wonder tune, “Another Star,” which Daniels covered for her JAZZINIT CD.
Daniels, infused the 1926 Fred Rose and Walter Hirsch song, “Deed I Do,” with passion and intimacy, while injecting sense of flirting with both the lyrics and her audience. Stage actress and singer Ruth Etting, first made the song famous recording it for Columbia, however it is Dee Daniels, who on this evening delivered with authenticity, the lines, “Do I love you? / Oh my, do I? Honey, ’deed I do!” Were she not wearing a wedding ring, there may have been more than a few suitors lining up between sets.
Daniel’s first set consisted mostly of songs from what numerous artists are now referring to as the New American Songbook. Tunes such as James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain,” the Otis Taylor / Aretha Franklin song, “Respect,” Lionel Richie’s, “Hello,” and Ruby and The Romantic’s, # 1 song from 1963, “Our Day Will Come.” Daniel’s also unveiled an incredible cover of the Doobie Brothers’ “What A Fool Believes.” All of the songs, have been set in new jazz arrangements and can be heard on Daniels’ CD JAZZINIT.
For her second set, Daniels took her fans for a musical stroll down memory lane, dipping into the more traditional standards. Perhaps the most romantic moment of the evening came when Dee Daniels gently cooed, “It Had To Be You,” leaving the listener with not much else to do but sigh, and with thoughts of whispering “I love you,” in the ear of that someone special.
Incredible Singer Dee Daniels Has a Four-Octave Range by Red Robinson The Vancouver Sun
“Silky impassioned.” “Extraordinary range.” “She can sing gospel, jazz and blues comfortably and with great emotion.” These are some of the descriptions various publications around the world have used to proclaim the incredible talents of Dee Daniels.
Her four-octave range enthralls an audience. Whether she’s performing in an intimate jazz club or fronting a big band or full symphony orchestra, she seems relaxed, comfortable and in command at all times. Like Diana Krall, she accompanies herself on the piano with exceptional ease and artistry.
Her musical journey began in her stepfather’s church choir in Oakland, Calif. She honed her talents in the R&B era, then left for a five-year stay in Europe (1982 - 1987). During those learning years she had the opportunity to perform with jazz legends such as Toots Thielemans, Johnny Griffin and Ed Thigpen to name a few. She even sang the blues with the late Sarah Vaughan and gospel with Joe Williams.
Her career has taken her all over the world and to all the major international festivals including Japan’s Kobe Jazz Street Festival, Ireland’s Cork Jazz Festival, the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in the US, and of course, the DuMaurier Jazz Festivals here in Canada.
Along with her incredible talent, Daniels is also a very giving person, and in 2001 established the Dee Daniels Jazz Vocal Scholarship at Capilano College for young singers and musicians. Her own honors include the FANS Award (a North Vancouver Arts Council presentation), a nomination for Vocalist of the Year, and a nomination for her Love Story album as Best Jazz CD of the Year by the West Coast Music Awards.
Daniels was inducted into the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2002, and has a plaque bearing her name on Vancouver’s Walk of Fame on Granville Street. In 2003, she received the prestigious Commemorative Medal for the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and was inducted into the University of Montana’s School of Fine Arts, Hall of Honour.
The artists Daniels has performed with reads like a who’s who: John Clayton Jr., Clark Terry, Hank Jones, Houston Person, Russell Malone, Jeff Hamilton, Ken Peplowski, Monty Alexander, and more. Each is a fan of her inimitable talent. She also performs on a regular basis with symphony orchestras including those in Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary, Berlin, Florida, Baltimore and Detroit.
Daniels is passionate about her work and it shows. It is a distinct pleasure for me to have this opportunity to inform you of this amazing lady’s multi-faceted talents.
“INTIMATE CONVERSATIONS” (2014)REVIEWS & QUOTES
MIDWEST RECORD by Chris Spector
DEE DANIELS/Intimate Conversations: Daniels is one of those jazz singers that’s managed a four decade career without most of you ever hearing of her. Spending time in Europe and as part of the ensemble, no matter what the ensemble has been, it’s only been recently she’s been taking the spotlight. And speaking of taking the spotlight, this is an album of vocal/instrumental duets with some of New York’s best jazzbos providing the various notes. With an adventurous set card that isn’t easily pigeonholed, Daniels shows you what you’ve been missing and why insiders feel free to show up and show the love. This is a grand showcase for jazz vocal fans that want it as pure and close to the bone as possible. Hot stuff throughout.
CD Review Bob Collins - WRHU Long Island
There’s certainly a lot of talent on Dee Daniels’ new CD – It’s first-rate.
BUFFALO NEWS (NY) CD Review by Mary Kunz Goldman
Dee Daniels sang once with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and though the concert was in 2002, I remember distinctly how good she was. She brought great emotion to a bunch of Ellington songs, and she sang the heck out of the blues. She was fun to write about, too. It’s not every day you can report accurately: “She held that note until it was thin as a ribbon, then fattened it out and pulled it down into the lowlands.” In short, it’s great to hear from Dee Daniels again after all these years. She is in good company, too. She is joined by musicians including but not limited to Cyrus Chestnut on piano. Wycliffe Gordon on trombone, Houston Person on sax and Russell Malone on guitar. There are tremendous growly sax and trombone solos, almost like another singer, and Daniels responds to that vibe. (“All the Way” has to be heard to be believed.) The atmosphere is gritty and Tin Pan Alley. Daniels plays piano for herself in Leon Russell’s “A Song For You,” a kind of signature song for her. My one criticism of Daniels is that she doesn’t quite have the romance bit down. In “Exactly Like You” she doesn’t sound exactly loving. “Come Try My Love,” a tune of iffy quality that Daniels wrote, lacks that note of longing. The antagonistic blues “Don’t Touch Me” sounds like it’s more her speed. Then again, sometimes recordings can be a bit sterile.
“STATE OF THE ART” (2013)REVIEWS & QUOTES
Jazz: Beyond the Sky John McCarthy,Radio Boise / KRBX 89.9 FM
Intimate Conversations” is excellent. So, so simple, straight light clear, solid, superb. I listened last night for the first time and had to just stop and listen in on Dee’s stories. I’ve got a few favs already. She makes each song a story – and makes it her own story. I’m looking forward to listening in on her stories, her conversations. I hope she gets heard far and wide.
The Jazz Chill Corner by Dusty Groove
Excellent work from Dee Daniels – a singer who’s been on the scene for more than a few years, but who really seems to be hitting her stride these days! The set’s got Daniels sounding tighter and more focused than ever – working with an excellent small combo that features Eric Alexander on tenor and Cyrus Chestnut on piano – both players who help bring a bite to the music that really seems to pull a lot out of Dee’s vocals! The set is actually the first-ever vocal session for the Criss Cross label – but feels like some lost set of soulful jazz from years back – the kind of set that some of the better indies used to give us back in the 80s and 90s, but which so few seem to be able to deliver these days. Dee’s great throughout – on the money, and really able to bring new life out of familiar tunes that include “Summer Wind”, “He Was Too Good To Me”, “Almost Like Being In Love”, “Lover Man”, and “Why Did I Choose You”.
Jazz Society of Oregon by George Fendel and Jessica Rand
You are the president of a well-respected, 30-plus-year-old jazz label called Criss Cross Records. During that span you have issued over 300 jazz recordings, and every single one has been an instrumental affair. So this release by singer Dee Daniels marks a first for the label and certainly something of an honor for her. Daniels is surrounded by a quartet that includes two young veterans in Eric Alexander, tenor sax, and Cyrus Chestnut, piano; and two newer names, Paul Beaudry, bass, and Alvester Garnett, drums. She has been singing songs like those heard on this album for many years, and all of that experience is evident in her phrasing, feeling, and overall delivery. Let’s put it this way: you know it when you hear it, and Dee Daniels, with no compromises, is a pure, real deal jazz singer. And who can argue with a menu of Songbook America gems that range from blues-drenched ballads such as “I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone,” “He Was too Good to Me,” and “Lover Man” to spirited entries such as “Almost Like Being in Love,” “Cheokee,” “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart” and “How High the Moon.” A personal favorite is the lovely ballad, “Why Did I Choose You.” This long overlooked beauty has gained favor with singers in recent years, and Daniels gives it well-deserved respect. On all these and more, the first-ever vocal effort for Criss Cross is a winner.
Definitive Statement: Dee Daniels’ State of the Art by Neil Hobkirk
Dee Daniels should need no introduction. Unfortunately, she too often does. In a music climate clouded by jazz-singing sound-alikes, a vocalist brave enough to let her affinity for hard bop remain undiluted by easy-listening production values; a vocalist who wields her instrument brashly like a player, exploring extended techniques comparable to the most intrepid trumpeters’ and saxophonists’; such a vocalist is bound to appeal foremost to the hard-core jazz aficionado. But given the heights and depths of feeling that Ms. Daniels accesses through her phenomenal vocal range, and the compulsively limb-engaging swing that she and her musicians whip up, her appeal should be obvious to any pair of ears.
Like Jeri Brown and Ranee Lee, two other singers with unashamed virtuoso leanings, Dee Daniels is an American who relocated long-term to Canada. In her case, this move came on the heels of a five-year musical pilgrimage to Holland and Belgium, where she built upon her gospel, r&b and rock roots to hone a career in straightahead jazz. For over two decades afterwards, she based that career in Vancouver, BC, releasing seven albums and a DVD. Just three years ago, to be closer to the action, Daniels moved south of the border to the Big Apple.
There in 2013 she recorded State of the Art, the Criss Cross Jazz label’s first-ever vocalist-led date after some 360 releases. That number symbolizes the completion of a full circle, for Dee Daniels reportedly became aware of Criss Cross while living in Amsterdam in 1982, when the Dutch label’s catalogue consisted of a single album. The Criss Cross Jazz release schedule is modest, at this point encompassing about a dozen new albums yearly, but chances are that Daniels will reappear on the label before long: it has a proven track record of loyalty to its musicians, many of whom appear as both leaders and sidemen on numerous releases across the Criss Cross catalogue.
In common with labels like HighNote, Capri, Sharp Nine, Posi-Tone and Cellar Live, Criss Cross stands as a stronghold of straightahead jazz, a haven for players who prize the values of bebop and hard bop. For the first couple of years, label founder and producer Gerry Teekens employed the services of recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Since then the majority of albums have been engineered by another former optometrist of Dutch extraction, Max Bolleman, who would accompany Teekens yearly from Holland to record Criss Cross artists in NYC. Latterly, sound engineering duties have devolved on other shoulders—in this case, on Max Ross’s. Ross also mastered the recording, which was mixed by Michael Marciano.
Recording quality is impeccably clear and full, keeping Ms. Daniels’ voice front and centre but giving her instrumentalists enough presence to confirm that they worked with her dynamically as a band, not passively as backup. On the earlier sessions with which I’m most familiar, Love Story (1999) and Feels SO Good! (2002), the singer is cited as co-producer. The sound on the first disc, recorded in Vancouver, is gorgeous: warm and transparent, enshrining a sense of intimacy among the players. The next album, recorded in New York, sounds comparatively rough, with a strident edge and tinny piano. This new Teekens production does not sound so delicately suspended somewhere beyond time as Love Story, still my favourite Dee Daniels disc; State of the Art conveys a more clinical atmosphere in which detail is sharply preserved with a brightness suiting the down-to-business hurly burly of her new hometown.
The opening track asserts this sense of immediacy when Daniels explodes out of the starting gate: the pent-up energy that propels “Almost Like Being in Love” makes it sound almost like she and the band began the tune in medias res. This is one of two up-tempo standards briskly dispatched on State of the Art; the other ten tracks reside on the slow side. Daniels flaunts her chops early in the tune, scatting atop the buoyant accompaniment of pianist Cyrus Chestnut. The scatting gives way to an economical tenor solo by Eric Alexander, who cut his first album as a leader for Criss Cross in 1992 and has been contributing prolifically to the label as a sideman ever since. On the other fast number, “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart,” Alexander’s sax trades quips with Alvester Garnett’s kit until the drummer breaks out in a solo display of varied rhythmic resource.
A major revelation on the new album is “Cherokee,” which Dee Daniels delivers more slowly than pretty much anyone. The tune has been recorded only occasionally by vocalists, including one of Dee’s major influences, Sarah Vaughan. Usually it serves as a showpiece for instrumentalists bent on exercising maximum technique at breakneck speed. Tribal tom-toms and dark piano notes open the piece with an air of exoticism befitting the fanciful lyrics. Like other female singers who’ve tackled the tune, Daniels addresses her words to a “sweet Indian warrior,” as opposed to the “sweet Indian maiden” originally specified. As always, on “Cherokee” her low notes are beautifully formed, ruminatively casting an autumnal spell with the help of Garnett’s brushwork and delicate cymbal washes, not to mention a piano solo where Chestnut calmly loiters along the keys.
The other notably languid display here is Daniels’ astonishing take on the warhorse “Willow Weep for Me.” Hers has already earned a place alongside my favourite renditions: Billy Bang (violin); Stanley Turrentine (tenor sax); and Tin Hat Trio (vocals by Willie Nelson). Abetted by Chestnut’s sparse accompaniment, Daniels’ soulfully haunted delivery brings the broken-hearted narrator to life, finding sympathetic desolation in the willow tree’s elaborate weeping. Her artful elongation of syllables and final imploring repetitions of “weep” infuse Ann Ronell’s audacious word-assemblage with keen feeling. In the sax solo, Alexander’s glistening tone supplies objective commentary, an entirely different sound from Houston Person’s on Love Story and Feels SO Good!, where the elder tenorist’s warm soulfulness closely complements Daniels’ dusky timbre.
In “Lover Man,” performed just as slowly as “Willow Weep for Me” and at even greater length, Daniels again hauntingly animates a lovelorn soul. She takes a ruminative approach, phrasing deliberately and ominously to impart an unexpected complexity: this lonely woman wants love but equally dreads its implications. Hear how Daniels drops her voice to draw out the word “strange” at 2:58, underlining this ambivalence. A quietly hair-raising moment. And listen to the final iteration of “Hugging and a-kissing/Oh, [look] what I’ve been missing,” where she lingers thoughtfully over her words, adding “look” with an air of irony as though doubting the value of desire.
Further highlights are too many to mention at length. There’s the brace of Sinatra-associated tunes: “Summer Wind,” with a masterfully undemonstrative piano solo from Chestnut; and Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” sporting a dapper turn from Alexander. Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, whose disc The Intimate Ellington (2013) boasted Daniels’ first Criss Cross appearance, lends a playful arrangement of another Porter number, “Night and Day.” Here, to stress the ineluctable recurrence of romantic longing, the singer matches wits with introductory drum embellishments that conjure beating tom-toms, ticking clocks and dripping raindrops. “Almost Like Being in Love” likewise wears a Gordon arrangement. The repertoire on Daniels’ disc was influenced too by Houston Person, who reportedly recommended a couple of numbers: “I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone” and a comparative obscurity, “Why Did I Choose You.” The latter affords bassist Paul Beaudry his one spotlit moment, when he solos forthrightly against a distant trickle of piano keys.
In fact, like her other two albums that I’ve mentioned, Dee’s State of the Art is all highlights—nothing added merely to inch the CD towards a one-hour running time. If this disc is a statement definitive of Daniels’ present intent, it seems she’s concerned these days with finding greater subtlety within vocal constraints. Sure, the expressive means remain markedly more varied than most vocalists’, but just compare them to the extreme thrills and spills she delivered on Feels SO Good!: where, for example, Daniels’ original tune “Love Ain’t Love Without You” offered the most passionately charged proof of stratospheric vocal reach that you’re likely to hear. State of the Art installs the master more introspectively in her workshop, still choosing from all the tools available, but only as appropriate to the task at hand. The tasks are assigned by the Great American Songbook: no originals this time, and no David/Bacharach songs (like “The Look of Love” on FSG!); just standards and near-standards whose lyrics Daniels inhabits so fully that you feel her coming to terms with whatever process they document. The songs emerge lived-in, lived-through, and with the Dee Daniels “wow” factor intact. What more can I say? Wow!