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Dee Daniels: Jazzinit

When, to borrow a skill once credited to Dee Daniels by Leonard Feather, you “soul-fry” a batch of pop hits, are you jazzin’ it or putting jazz in it? Such is the intentional double entendre that ignites this magical assortment of hits old and (relatively) new from the Vancouver-based songstress who Houston Person rightly calls “the jazz world’s hidden treasure.” And, given Daniels’ well-established jazz cred and her obvious ability to hammer some bluesy sass into even the most resistant of tunes, the titular debate is moot. Apart from the eight-decade-old “Deed I Do,” which Daniels bathes in a bubbling pool of bossa-spiked hot sauce, most of the selections date from the ’50s through the ’80s. But what she does to them is anything but retro. Daniels bursts through the gates with a percolating rendition of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Can’t Find Love,” slows to a smoldering crawl for a stunning reading of Stevie Wonder’s “Another Star,” injects Lionel Richie’s saccharine “Hello” with genuine zealousness, rocks Michael McDonald’s “What a Fool Believes” with gentle sagacity, and cuts loose with a “Respect” that’s as joyously, confidently celebratory as Aretha Franklin’s was explosively self-affirming. As molded by Daniels, even David Gates’ milquetoast “If” is given a solid workout, with welcome sinew wrapped around its frail bones. But the pièce de résistance, the track that’s alone worth the price of admission, is a nimbly swingin’ “Fire and Rain” that transforms the James Taylor masterpiece from bleakly fatalistic hymn to vibrant survivalist anthem.

Originally Published