Sasha Dobson: The Darkling Thrush

Terrifically refreshing as the post-millennial wave of hyphenate vocalists (folk-jazz, pop-jazz, country-jazz, jazz-rock and compounded variations thereof) may be, it sometimes leaves me yearning for some of that old school, Vegas-meets-52nd-Street (crossing Tin Pan Alley en route) showmanship. Enter San Franciscan Sasha Dobson who, with her sparkling debut The Darkling Thrush (Smalls), comfortably occupies a berth somewhere midway between the sizzling razzmatazz of Sammy Davis Jr. and the cool-headed sophistication of Anita O’Day and Chris Connor. In fairness, though, sensational as Dobson is on such varied standards as Lionel Bart’s Oliver! anthem “Who Will Buy?,” Jobim’s “Quiet Nights,” a smoldering, Connor-esque “Sophisticated Lady” and a strongly O’Day-influenced “April in Paris,” equal credit for the album’s success must go to Chris Byars, who not only provides marvelously buoyant accompaniment with his octet while personally handling flute, clarinet and tenor sax duties but has also crafted a baker’s dozen arrangements that can hold their own against the very best of Billy May or Don Costa.