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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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The Very Best of

Rhino 8122744872




1. All That Jazz
2. The Ballad of Sweeney Todd
3. I've Got Your Number
4. Cool
5. Life Has Been Good to Me
6. Some Other Time
7. Kiko and the Lavender Moon
8. Call Me
9. Philadelphia
10. People Are Strange
11. Been Caught Stealing
12. Just A Girl
13. Black Hole Sun
14. It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)
15. Dirty Martini Recipe

Lea DeLaria – Vocals
Brad Mehldau – Piano
Gil Goldstein - Piano, Fender Rhodes, accordion (tracks 3, 5, 7-13)
Larry Goldings - Piano (tracks 1, 2)
Brad Mehldau – Piano (track 4)
Larry Grenadier – Bass (tracks 1-5)
Christian McBride – Bass (tracks 7-13)
Gregory Hutchinson – drums (tracks 1-5)
Bill Stewart – Drums (tracks 7-13)
Scott Wendholt – Trumpet (tracks 3, 5)
Jon Gordon - Alto sax (tracks 3, 5)
Seamus Blake - Tenor sax (tracks 3, 5, 10-12)
Keith O’Quinn – Trombone (tracks 3, 5)
Bob Stewart – Tuba (tracks 3, 5)
Tom Varner - French horn (tracks 3, 5)
Howard Alden – Acoustic guitar (track 6)
Stefon Harris – Marimba, vibraphone (tracks 7, 9)
Bashiri Johnson – Percussion (tracks 7, 10, 11)
Bill Hayes – Glass harmonica (tracks 8, 9)
Adam Rogers – Guitar (tracks 11, 12)
Janette Mason – Piano (tracks 14, 15)
Julian Siegel – Tenor sax (track 14)
Tom Arthurs – Trumpet (track 14)
Pete Callard – Guitar (track 14)
Roy Babbington – Bass (track 14)
Mark Fletcher – Drums (track 14)

Vocalist Lea DeLaria seemed to burst upon our consciousness suddenly about six years ago, but she has actually been performing as an entertainer for 25 years. The word "entertainer" is significant, as she is an all-rounder who has appeared as an actor, stand-up comedian and Broadway singer as well as performing in films and on TV. Only in recent years has she added "jazz vocalist" to her cv, so perhaps it’s a bit early for a "Very Best of" album. This collection consists of items from her two Warner Brothers CDs, as well as three previously unreleased tracks and Dirty Martini Recipe which had only appeared on the compilation Music for a Bachelorette’s Pad.

Lea’s Broadway connections are evident in this collection, with five of the first six tracks being show tunes rather than jazz standards. Yet Lea delivers these songs with a jazz sensibility at the same time as projecting them with the assured extroversion of a stage performer. The Ballad of Sweeney Todd has an easy swing, while Gil Goldstein’s arrangement of I’ve Got Your Number adds a jazzy horn section, with a fine solo from tenorist Seamus Blake. Incidentally, Seamus also adds immeasurably to the effectiveness of People Are Strange and Been Caught Stealing. The leisurely version of Cool (from West Side Story) includes some interesting interplay from the rhythm section of Brad Mehldau, Larry Grenadier and Greg Hutchinson, and DeLaria’s vocal is thoughtfully paced.

With such a variety of experience, Lea’s range is understandably broad, embracing Randy Newman (Life Has Been Good To Me), Neil Young (Philadelphia) and the Doors (People Are Strange) as well as Duke Ellington (It Don’t Mean a Thing). Her range of styles is equally impressive. Some Other Time finds her in Julie London torch-song territory, while Been Caught Stealing is funky jazz-fusion and Kiko and the Lavender Moon is Latin-American exotica (with atmospheric marimba from Stefon Harris).

It Don’t Mean a Thing sounds grittier than the rest of the album, probably because it was recorded in the UK (judging from the British personnel). It is followed by Dirty Martini Recipe, a strange ironical monologue which is unlikely to repay repeated hearings. Apart from this expendable final track, the CD is a good showcase for the versatile talents of Lea DeLaria.

Tony Augarde


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