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Denise Donatelli: Find a Heart

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Arguably postmillennial jazz singing’s foremost late bloomer, Denise Donatelli cut her laudable debut album, released in 2005, at age 55. She started out singing mostly standards. Then, five years ago, with When Lights Are Low, she established what remains a winning pattern: pianist Geoffrey Keezer, as arranger and producer, working with top-drawer musicians, and the playlist, though still including a nod or two to the Great American Songbook, built around discerning reinterpretations of contemporary pop. It’s a blueprint that has garnered her back-to-back Grammy nominations (for Lights and 2012’s Soul Shadows) and should deservedly net her a third for Find a Heart.

It is Donatelli’s lushest album yet, Keezer’s charts as densely atmospheric as they are intelligent. Donald Fagen’s “Big Noise, New York” is crowded and cacophonous. Brenda Russell and Yellowjackets’ “Love and Paris Rain” feels drenched in desire. Beck’s “Eyes That Say I Love You” is perfectly chilled. And Journey’s “Troubled Child,” its turbulence masterfully propelled by guitarist Leonardo Amuedo, drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith and percussionist Walter Rodriguez, seems chased by dark, sinister shadows.

Donatelli closes with an impassioned “Midnight Sun,” and an intriguing “Day Dream” that hovers on the edge of nightmarish. But the disc’s apex is at its center: Sting’s sterling exploration of romantic compromises, “Practical Arrangement,” featuring trumpeter Chris Botti, aside an explosively climactic rendering of David Crosby’s title track.

Originally Published