Billie Holiday tributes can get pretty lachrymose, but Chicago’s ebullient Dee Alexander is not one to throw a pity party. Here, as is her wont, she both honors her source material and reimagines it, aided by some brilliant arrangements as well as deft accompaniment (and first-rate solos) from the Metropolitan Jazz Octet. Although she doesn’t shy away from Holiday’s dark side, much of what she and the MJO offer is, in a word, fun, which isn’t always an adjective associated with Lady Day.
Alexander brings her full armamentarium of nuance and emotional commitment to such romantic fare as “You’re So Desirable,” “Things Are Looking Up” (concluding with a characteristically audacious scat-soar into the stratosphere), “I Wished on the Moon,” and the title song, on which she unleashes a breathtaking improvisational tour de force that spans multiple octaves with unerring precision and daunting virtuosity. Even on a more melancholy outing like “The Blues Are Brewin’” she sounds less like a victim of heartbreak than a survivor ready to stare it down and sing—if not dance—in its face.