Live at the Algonquin
By Heidi W. Moore
darkly paneled and subtly lit Oak Room at New York City's Algonquin Hotel is the
ideal venue in which to hear pianist, jazz musician, and singer Dena DeRose. A
five-week engagement, "Made for the Movies: A Hollywood Songbook," recently
brought together three singers of diverse experience and styleDeRose, Bill
Henderson, and singer/pianist Eric Comstockto present guests with a wonderful
evening of pop and jazz standards written for films of the 1930s through 1960s.
Courtesy Dena DeRose
to a mixed crowd of middle-aged Broadway and cabaret aficionados, the trio brought
to life the work of composers and songwriters Johnny Mercer, Henry Mancini and
Harry Warren, as well as jazz legends Duke Ellington and Johnny Mandel (both of
whom wrote and performed classics for the movies). Henderson sounds like a cross
between Johnny Mercer, Joe Carroll and Lou Rawlshis experience with jazz
luminaries such as Count Basie, Miles Davis and Quincy Jones was evident in his
crooning. Comstock took the lead in many of the show tunes in true "performer"
style, and both complemented the confidence of Ms. DeRose's feminine and ladylike
of slow melodic show tunes with a few up-tempo swingier numbers
sprinkled throughout provided a perfect showcase for Ms. DeRose's
great vocal range; especially impressive was her scat vocalization
over her own piano accompaniment. The sound of both DeRose and
Comstock on pianos, joined by bass and drums, was only a bit
more complex than, say, Slim & Slam or the Oscar Peterson
Trio, with whom Henderson has cut a disc. The threesome maintained
a lighthearted verbal exchange between numbers, with pitter-patter
jokes, a comfortable repartee and historical reminiscences that
few of the tunes that Ms. DeRose performed so beautifully at The Oak Room, such
as "If I Should Lose You," can be found on her three albums for Sharp
Nine Records, including the most recent, I Can See Clearly Now. A collection
of upbeat standard and not so standard selections, this release is the opposite
end of the spectrum from her second album, Another World (1999), which
displayed the soulful and sorrowful side of the performer. But that doesn't mean
I Can See Clearly Now is sappy or one dimensional; instead, it has the
wistful "If I Should Lose You" and two Latin-flavored numbers, "Detour
Ahead" and "With a Smile." Ms. DeRose's natural sparkle can be
heard in "Day In Day Out" and "I've Never Been in Love Before"
(with its scatting and piano accompaniment) and the undeniable swing of "Touch
of Your Lips." A duet between voice and vibe closes the effort in a stunning
display of skill and command, and brings the collection full circle. The cheery
and light demeanor that pervades the CD is trademark of Ms. Derose's voice, through
which one can hear optimism and warmth.
addition to being a compelling vocal stylist, Ms. DeRose is an accomplished jazz
pianist and a sophisticated arranger and composer. Her piano playing is as distinctive
as her mellifluous voice, and she is responsible for arranging most of the show
tunes she performs, rendering them fresh and memorable. Toronto jazz lovers will
have the opportunity to see the Dena DeRose Trio at the Canadian Jazz Expo on
November 2. Otherwise, those fortunate enough to be traveling to either Italy
or the West Coast next month will be able to catch Ms. DeRose on tour.
more information, including tour dates and sample tracks, visit
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