Notorious Jazz – Denise Donatelli “Find A Heart” Review

Written By Carl Anthony
Singers come and go but vocalists are that rare breed who understand how to get inside the lyric and claim it as their own, regardless of the composer. The vocalist is a storyteller, a vehicle to transport you to faraway destinations that you may have nestled in the forgotten regions of your memory or have yet to be fortunate enough to visit. This is the voyage I book every time I sit down to listen to Denise Donatelli.
With her latest release, Find A Heart, Denise has compiled a cache of eleven compositions that speak to one of her favorite subjects… Love! She has the unique ability to discover rare gems that easily translate to jazz and she delivers each song with the fluidity of a seasoned concierge.
Surrounding herself with incomparable talent that is enviable to say the least, her quartet is comprised of pianist and music director Geoffrey Keezer, drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith, bassist Carlitos Del Puerto, guitarist Leonardo Amuedo. Beyond this is her ability to know when less is more as with Not Like This and Day Dream where her voice is one instrument in the duet.
Like the innovators who challenged the status quo to evolve the music, Denise knows when to enlist the right voices to translate her vision for songs composed by Sting, Crosby, Ferrante and Beck, to name a few, that sit easily alongside Hampton, Mercer, Burke and Strayhorn in the Great American Songbook. As with Fagen’s Big Noise, New York she brought in the fiery tenor saxophone of Bob Sheppard only to offset the more gentle Love and Paris Rain with the mellow tones of Christine Jensen’s soprano.
She also knows when to bring in the sensuality of the Chris Botti trumpet and the lush strings of Alma Fernandes, Matt Funes, Darrin McCann and Giovanna Clayton to ease you through the exposé of my personal favorite Practical Arrangement. If that isn’t enough incentive for one to lend an ear, without any fanfare she pours out her heart to pen lyrics to Billy Child’s In This Moment.
One will notice that the arrangements equally invite the listener into the conversation between the musicians which compliments the listening experience. Each time you listen past her wonderful voice you will hear a nuance you did not notice in prior encounters. This is a key component to great musicianship and why she has been nominated once again for a Grammy.
Setting aside any prejudice one may think I harbor as a longtime fan and musical supporter, I take my listening seriously and there is no price on my musical enjoyment. Suffice it to say, I may not know where the journey will lead me but I am excitedly anticipatory of the beauty I will encounter. Denise Donatelli may not promise me the moon, but she always delivers the poetry of the stars.
Carl Anthony / Notorious Jazz / January 23, 2016