Harlem-born Diana Perez’s circuitous path to a jazz singing began in L.A., where she relocated in her teens to pursue a career in art and design. While in the City of Angels, she learned to appreciate Coltrane, Parker, Evans, Mingus and Baker. But it was her love for Abbey Lincoln and Nina Simone that prompted the untrained youngster to alter her professional course. She hitched and hiked her way to Europe, spent a decade honing her craft, self-produced two albums for Holland’s Timeless label and landed back in her native Manhattan. Now, with the release of her third disc, she’s dropped the “Diana” and is simply Perez.
Stanley Crouch describes her as “the real thing,” and indeed she is: pure-voiced and free of affectations, with a round, robust sound as sparkling and fresh as iced Perrier yet as dense and rich as darkest espresso. On past albums, she has mixed covers and originals. This time around, she sticks exclusively to time-honored classics, handling everything from the tricky curves of “Milestones” and boppin’ bounce of “Farmer’s Market” to the slowly unraveling uncertainty of “Detour Ahead” and haunted otherworldliness of “Nature Boy” with aplomb. Through it all, Perez remains the sturdy maypole around which several fine-spirited players dance, with pianist David Hazeltine, drummer Joe Farnsworth, bassist Nat Reeves, trombonist Steve Davis, trumpeter Ron Horton and saxophonist/flautist Jed Levy each adding his particular brand of spice to this satisfying olio.