All Music Guide

Written by Ken Dryden

A late bloomer due to her focusing on parenthood and an earlier career with CNN, vocalist Denise Donatelli has continued to develop with a depth of feeling and a broad musical palette open to exploring many styles of jazz. Her fourth CD (and third for Savant) finds her again with pianist/music directorGeoff Keezer and guitarist Peter Sprague, with a supporting cast that varies from track to track. Donatelliputs a new twist on the standard “All or Nothing at All,” buoyed by Keezer’s catchy, Afro-Peruvian arrangement, and potent solos by Keezer and acoustic guitarist Ramon Stagnaro. The other standard, “Too Late Now,” is a lush duet by Donatelli with Keezer as her sole accompanist, where the vocalist’s adept phrasing and use of space conveys its lyric perfectly. Two songs were penned by jazz veterans. The scoring of Wayne Shorter’s “A Promise (Someplace Called Where)” (with a lyric by Dianne Reeves) utilizes strings and soprano saxophonist Tim Garland to provide an intricate backing for the singer.Donald Brown’s “Ange” is a demanding, Brazilian-flavored work which Donatelli performs flawlessly as if it had long been part of her repertoire. From there, Donatelli expands her scope to contemporary jazz, pop, and works by singer/songwriters. She shows her playful side in the light-hearted “Another Day,” scatting along with Sprague’s guitar, followed by Keezer’s spry solo, and takes flight in her hip, Brazilian-tinged rendition of Joe Sample’s “Soul Shadows.” Donatelli captures the essence of “When I Looked Again,” a collaborative effort by Christian McBride and Sting that was recorded by them but unissued, with effective overdubbed harmony vocals judiciously used in Keezer’s arrangement. With so many jazz vocalists competing for attention, Denise Donatelli easily stands out from the pack with her versatile, creative repertoire and strong voice