Two years after her beautiful Shirley Horn tribute album, singer/pianist/teacher Dena DeRose releases “United”, a 9-song selection that teams her up again with longtime partners Martin Wind on bass and Matt Wilson on drums plus a couple of special guests. One of those is trumpeter Ingrid Jensen who blossoms on the opening title track, a Wayne Shorter composition that was recorded by Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers back in 1961. Dena wrote new lyrics to the song, universal and uplifting: “Stand up for all that you believe/Trust in the dreams that you conceive”.
Her swinging, delightful piano work is brimming with expertise and panache throughout the album. And she doesn’t choose the obvious standards for her newest endeavor: the Sammy Cahn/Jimmy van Heusen classic “Only The Lonely”, probably best noted for Frank Sinatra’s version, is done in an elegant, subdued and intimate fashion where Dena flawlessly and compellingly tells the story, accompanied by guitarist Peter Bernstein in a slight samba groove.
She also wrote the lyrics to a Cedar Walton composition. “Clockwise”, recorded by Bobby Hutcherson for his 1979 LP “Conception: The Gift Of Love” and two years later recorded by Walton himself on his “Piano Solos” album, also includes a Dena mantra: “Finding your own way in life is how to be!”. The trio comes up with a lot of impressive and energetic ideas which only a group can deliver that has stayed together for such a long time. You can find Martin and Matt as far back as on Dena’s 2005 MaxJazz album “A Walk In The Park” and they have played together ever since.
Carole King‘s “So Far Away”, one of my favorites from her classic “Tapestry” album from 1971 (which also included “I Feel The Earth Move”, “It’s Too Late”, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, and “You’ve Got A Friend”), is treated with a haunting vocal production and simply is a blissful entry. It’s back to swinging ground for “I’m Glad There Is You” and here again, one of Dena’s specialties is shown: it’s as if she’s talking to you, unconstrained and buoyant.
Bassist Martin Wind‘s composition “Simple Song Of Love” is just that. A beautiful, almost naive, but never trite melody that has Dena’s lyrics underscoring the simplicity. I also enjoyed his sensuous bass solo, warm and at peace with the world. And we get some more treats: Horace Silver‘s “Peace” features Ingrid Jensen again on trumpet. The track meanders lovingly and meditatively along for about four minutes before it turns into a carnevalesque conclusion with intrinsic, repetitive lines with Dena pleading “Peace For Everyone”. A great arrangement.
The album finishes up with the Bobby Hebb standard “Sunny” which has Peter Bernstein again on soulful guitar, and an obscure little peace by UK composer Duncan Lamont. “Not You Again” would have been perfect for Shirley Horn’s repertoire and easily, gracefully fits into Dena’s as well (the song has been recorded by Cleo Laine and George Shearing in 1994).
If you’re around, don’t miss the CD release show at New York’s Birdland on March 31st.