Listen to Better Than Anything, the second album from The Dave Miller Trio with vocalist Rebecca Dumaine (due for release February 11, 2014), and it is clear that Dumaine is a charmer who can swing with the best of them. In the Miller Trio she has the perfect complement. They work together like they were made for each other, and indeed they were. Perhaps it has something to do with genes, considering that Miller is the singer’s father; perhaps it goes back to the way she was raised. Whatever the reason, this is a combo that works.
They have a sound that takes you back to some of the best days of jazz, but they have retro-fitted it just enough for the new century. Rejecting any kind of radical approach to the music, they have a vibe that honors the past, with tweaks here and there for a touch of modernity. So what you end up with is a sound that might well be Better Than Anything.
The album’s 15-tune set is something of a mixed bag. Too often jazz vocalists are content to stick to a repertoire of old chestnuts, tried and true, but perhaps a bit tired as well. Dumaine and Miller are more adventurous. There are a couple of standards—“Cheek to Cheek” gets updated, and there is a Latin take on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “It Might as Well Be Spring.” There are a couple of fairly familiar Antonio Carlos Jobim bossa novas—“No More Blues” and “Dreamer.” And “That’s All” which ends the set is well known, but by and large though, they have chosen to move beyond the conventional repertoire with great songs you don’t hear on album after album.
It is not only the album’s title song that opens the set, but there are a half a dozen other songs that deserve to be better known. Dumaine’s performance goes a long way to making that case. She swings her way through the great Jimmy McHugh’s “I Just Found Out about Love” and a Duke Ellington/Peggy Lee romp, “I’m Gonna Go Fishin.’” For some variety, there is the lyrical waltzing “Sometime Ago” which features a lengthy piano solo from Miller. There are two Leonard Bernstein show tunes: “It’s Love” from Wonderful Town and “Lucky to Be Me” from On the Town. She even does a little scat singing on the latter.
Miller and Dumaine are joined by Mario Suraci on bass and Bill Belasco on drums. Together they have put together one fine, straight-forward jazz album.