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June 2001

Dena DeRose
I Can See Clearly Now
Sharp Nine

On her first two Sharp Nine CDs, Dena DeRose sang good songs, accompanied herself splendidly at the piano and soloed at a high level. Her sidemen were some of the best young players in the New York jazz community. The albums had charm, balance, taste and musicality.

All of that is also true of I Can See Clearly Now, in which she introduces yet another facet of her talent. DeRose vocalizes in unison with her improvised piano lines on "I've Never Been in Love Before" and "The Touch of Your Lips." Her judicious use of the technique not as a gimmick but an intensely musical expression of exhilaration reinforces the notion that the career she has been growing over the past decade is on the verge of flowering. On the rest of the album, DeRose gives personal interpretations of superior songs including "If I Should Lose You, " "Alone Together," "Day In, Day Out" and "Detour Ahead" that made me forget for a while Mary Ann McCall's classic version. She converts Johnny Nash's 1972 hit "I Can See Clearly Now" into an almost prayerful ballad. DeRose's song "With a Smile" holds its own with the standards. Her voice has lightness, firmness and flexibility. Her breath control, phrasing and intonation are steady, and she has a nifty terminal vibrato.

To emphasize DeRose's singing is hardly to devalue her playing. She solos with a logical flow of ideas, solid swing and full harmonies that can be bracingly acerbic. She listens closely as she accompanies the other soloists: saxophonists Steve Wilson and Joel Frahm, trumpeter Jim Rotondi, vibraharpist Joe Locke and bassist Dwayne Burno. Matt Wilson is the drummer except on two tracks, which feature Mark Taylor.

Originally published in June 2001
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