Vanessa Rubin, one of my favorite singers, has finally released her tribute album to Tadd Dameron, “The Dream Is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron”, the pianist, composer, and arranger who was a pivotal figure in the bop scene of the 40s and 50s. Dameron composed several songs which became standards, like “If You Could See Me Now”, “Hot House”, or “Good Bait”. It’s her first album since the 2013 release “Full Circle” which she recorded with saxophonist Don Braden.
Vanessa opens her album with “Lady Bird”, arranged by another bop ace, Frank Foster. The lengthy track, featuring brilliant piano work by Jon Cowherd, showcases Vanessa’s astute certitude from the start. The afore-mentioned “If You Could See Me Now”, arranged by Benny Golson, convinces with its elegant brass parts featuring Eddie Allen on trumpet, Patience Higgins on tenor sax, Bruce Williams on alto sax, Alex Harding on bari sax, and Clifton Anderson on trombone. Vanessa takes her time on this classic tune and with the extended instrumental parts, focuses on the magic of Dameron’s composition.
The flawless swing of “Weekend” changes pace, where Vanessa’s strong and powerful instrument is colored with subtle and light-footed vibrato. I always liked “On A Misty Night”, arranged by Jimmy Heath, first recorded by John Coltrane in 1957. My surprise moment on the album is “Never Been In Love”, scored by Bobby Watson and sporting a wonderful, lyrical arrangement with Vanessa crowning the breezy tune, showing her tender and subtle side. And her excellency in story-telling is proven on “Next Time Around (Soultrane)”, a gracious ballad with great bass playing by Kenny Davis.
Some tunes get new and additional lyrics and it is very refreshing to hear a vocal version of “Good Bait”. Tadd Dameron’s romantic, very lyrical and melodic side can be heard on the last four tunes on the album. “You’re A Joy”, “Whatever Possessed Me”, “Reveries Do Come True (The Dream Is You)” and “I Think I’ll Go Away” all prove that the combination Rubin/Dameron is a match made in heaven. Here, Vanessa’s intonation and pitch is especially rewarding.
Kudos to Vanessa Rubin for putting the focus on Mr. Dameron and for coming up with the first ever tribute album to this amazing musician and composer. Is Cleveland, Ohio worth a visit?