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Music Reviews: Jazz Singers Times Four – Rebecca DuMaine, Michael Dees, Steve Cromity, Joanna Wallfisch

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Rebecca DuMaine and The Dave Miller Trio follow up last year’s impressively swinging release, Better Than Anything with another album filled with swingers, some well-known, some less familiar, The Consequence of You. As DuMaine says in the liner notes, “I look for those little gems” like the album’s opener, “Beautiful Love,” “one of those great jazz songs, and I haven’t heard a lot of people do it.” And listening to her take on the haunting melody, one has to wonder why. Her treatment of songs like “Down with Love” and “The Face That I Love” reRebecca Dumaine  Consequencepolishes those gems as well.

Supplementing the trio is guitarist Brad Buethe, who adds some yeoman’s work on Jobim’s “One Note Samba” and the bossa nova arrangement of the classic “There Will Never Be Another You.” DuMaine does her best to get the most out of the lyric, and she manages the job with swinging finesse. There is a synchronicity between the singer and the Miller Trio that goes beyond the fact that she is the daughter of pianist Miller; it is a synchronicity born out from the collaboration of a cohesive musical aesthetic.

Michael Dees has been around. The singer is a seasoned pro. He has the kind of voice that made a legend of Frank Sinatra, but while Sinatra is a household name, Dees has a name few outside the business have ever heard of. And that is unfortunate – the man can sing. It may be that he came along at the wrong time. It may be that his retro sound is out of step with the directions contemporary music has music taken. Whatever the reason, it is shameful that he isn’t better known.

His new album The Dream I Dreamed, only his second release since the 2001 One Single Rose, might do the job if given half a chance. The 14-tune set of original songs highlights both his vocal stylings and his traditional songwriting. His songs, while they lack the kind of familiarity that makes the old standards warm the hearts of the sentimental among us, have the vibe of past decades. Whether it is the swinging opener, “In a Moment,” the Dixieland shout-out “Back in New Orleans,” or the yearning ballad that gives the album its title, these are songs that call to mind another era. That will be their glory for some audiences, and their feet of clay for others.Michael Dees

Vocalist Steve Cromity’s second album All My Tomorrows was released in March. Accompanied by his regular rhythm section with music director Marcus Persiani on piano, Eric Lemon on bass, and Darrell Green on drums, together with guest talent Patience Higgins (tenor and soprano sax, flute), Eric Wyatt (tenor sax) and Kenyetta Beasley (trumpet) on selected tracks, he works his way through a program of some of his favorite songs. He opens the set with a standard, “Old Devil Moon” and closes with another, “Without a Song,” both delivered with stylish assurance. In between he swings with jazz numbers like Stanley Turrentine’s “Sugar” and “Jeannine” by Duke Pearson and Oscar Brown, Jr. While Cromity’s vocals rarely push the envelope, they do ring out with intelligent clarity.

On the other hand, if you want something with a contemporary sound, you want to give a listen to Joanna Wallfisch’s brilliant new album, Joanna WallfischThe Origin of Adjustable Things. Working with pianist Dan Tepfer, she emotes her way through a 12-song collection: eight original compositions and four covers. Wallfisch is a poet, and her songs are masterful compositions. Her vocals run from the dramatic “Satin Grey” to the ethereal “Satellite” and from the inventive rhythms of “This Is How You Make Me Feel” to the bouncing syncopations of “Brighton Beach.” These are art songs masquerading as jazz.

Even the covers—Tim Buckley’s “Song to a Siren,” which becomes a siren’s song, Radiohead’s rant “Creep,” which becomes a plaint of the outsider, “Wild Is the Wind,” with its wonderful ending, and even the classic “Never Let Me Go”—become her own personal statements. Talk about making a song your own, they are her songs. Joanna Wallfisch is a vocalist you want to hear.

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