Review by Tara Isabella Burton 08/20/09:
Smoky, sexy, soft - the velvety voice of Dena Taylor dominates not just a corner of the room but indeed the entire wall of sound created by the "on" button of the stereo.
The jazz-tinged piano-ballads featured on Round Midnight, a selection from Taylor's latest album, combine a retro melancholy reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holliday with a self-knowing wink and a nod - in all the tracks, particularly "Let's Face the Music and Dance"
It is clear that Taylor combines the power and passion of her deeper melodies - such as "Round Midnight," arguably the sample's best song - with a hip, even modern take on a classic Cole-Porter sound: the happening drumbeat of "Let's Face the Music..." or the slight world-music-sound of "That Old Black Magic" are but two examples of the edge that Taylor brings to the "standard" sound.
But it is Taylor's voice that dominates the sound most. A gorgeous, rich mahogany voice, it is showcased prominently on the album - perhaps too much so, the production can times can feel excessively focused on the vocals, which echo just a nanosecond longer than they need to - and with good reason. Taylor's talent is the real deal - an instrument as powerful as a jazz piano or saxophone in evoking the mournful yet sassy strains of jazz and blues so central to Round Midnight.
Taylor's road to success has been hard-won, even inspirational. After a difficult and traumatic childhood, Taylor spent twelve years abroad in the military, combining her years of service with a series of low-profile concert and event gigs, ultimately choosing marriage over her first record contract - a choice Taylor would later discover led to an unhappy marriage and an unfair postponement of her dreams. Upon leaving the military, Taylor found herself in a tragic car accident that left her with severe brain damage - it took her a full two years for Taylor to regain her powers of speech and motion.
Today, Taylor is following her dream by giving "voices to the voiceless" - a power she was once herself denied and lends her personal support to a number of good causes that support others who have endured adversity.
It is a testament to Taylor's talent, however, that her sound never seems "preachy." Rather, the adversity Taylor has faced lends her voice a hard, knowing edge - like that of a Gladys Knight at her prime- that gives her music a ripened maturity so many pop stars lack.
That she is able to combine this maturity with the infectious and youthful rhythm of songs like "That Old Black Magic" is further proof of her skill as both a performer and a musician."
Independent Review by Tara Isabella Burton for MyMusicSuccess
Review by Max Maffia 03/17/09:
In order to give my view on Dena Taylor's album I find myself obliged to start out with one of the greatest interpretations of "Round Midnight" that I have ever heard. The track obliterates those original contorted forms that spring to life from Monk's harmonic requirements and reaches the listener in a very reassuring form, a pleasant "almost pop" sound that puts you in peace with the world and with life in general. The instrumental orchestration is pleasantly classical and the voice leans on every chord with a class and a timbre that brings to mind the voices of some of the great interpreters of jazz. I have chosen "Round Midnight" as my starting point because it is a track to which I am very attached and which Dena Taylor has made me love even more.
I now need to start again from the beginning in order to continue my review and the first track I find on my path is a rendering of "Too Close For Comfort" in which Dena does not let you miss for one moment all those Fitzgerald albums that you have had the courage to listen to in your life as a musician and you feel like you're back in 1956 with the sound of today. Worthy of note is also the latin interpretation of "That Old Black Magic". My ear falls in love again when "Let's Face the Music" starts up in which Dena handles the chord changes with class and simplicity and the whole track is rounded off with some splendid improvisations that show nothing of the over-indulgence that is all too typical of this genre.
Excellent musicians and excellent interpretations of often over-played standards that in this album take on a new life such as "Route 66", completely re-invented and presented to the listener with the mood of a shuffle and the sweetness of a swing (a highly successful operation which makes for very enjoyable listening).
Dena Taylor is without doubt a splendid surprise and the album runs so smoothly that you do not want it to finish. If you are a lover of jazz, jazz standards, warm voices and well-played music, make sure that this album becomes a part of your collection.
Max Maffia, Daybox Records (Italy)
Review by Carole Hayes 2009:
What a find!! CD Baby suggests that you will like this disc if you like Carmen McRae, Keely Smith and Sarah Vaughan and how true that is! And, like these ladies, Dena is supported by three of the finest musicians.
It is my pleasure to present Dena to the listening audience of the beautiful South Coast of New South Wales, Australia.
Thank you Dena for a very pleasurable musical experience, but also for introducing me to Ron Teixeira, a fabulous keyboardist. The arrangements of these all time favourites is first rate. new and exciting. As well, Dena is an inspiration to us all.
Carole Hayes for Shoalhaven Readio Triple U & Euroballia Radio (Australia)
Review by Tony Lawson 11/24/2009:
Although IMIsound was conceived primarily as a showcase for "Independent Musicians from Italy", it has always held its doors open to artists from all over the world. It was therefore with immense pleasure that we woke up one morning to find that our community had been graced overnight by the presence of Dena Taylor.
There are many artists out there doing a splendid job with the great classics of jazz and blues, but the sensitivity, the depth of feeling and the richness of colour that Dena infuses into her performances are in a class of their own. Duly supported by a band of first-class musicians, Dena is that rare combination of outstanding talent and enchanting charisma that one cannot but feel fortunate to come across in the vast world of music.
As a tribute to Dena and other international artists from various genres who have chosen to embrace the IMIsound project, we have given life to "Radio IMIsound International" - a rotating playlist where we are now showcasing two tracks each from all of our international members including Dena Taylor's magnificent performances of "Round Midnight" and "Route 66". Thank you Dena.
Tony Lawson, IMIsound Founder for IMIsound (England/Italy)
Review by TAXI A&R July 2008:
The track opens with a solid bass line doubled with piano establishing a motif that is revisited gracefully throughout the arrangement. The performance has the spirit of a traditional jazz trio & vocal group working through a head chart while including a subtle arrangement adding depth to an otherwise familiar format. Nice job.
The vocal performance feels good too .. right in the pocket. I like the way the vocalist shapes the phrasing without over doing it and lets the music dictate a natural direction.
The group swings with taste making this an easy listening experience - always a good thing.
Review of: Too Close for Comfort By: TAXI A&R, July 2008
Review by Michael Knight 7/11/08:
Dena Taylor and her quartet featuring keyboardist Ron Teixeira, bassist Ron Pirtle, and drummer Dave Dunscombe, arrive in the summer of 2008 with the American Standard songbook in tow. Taylor's new CD, 'round Midnight, is named after the haunting Monk ballad whose melody has remained with Taylor throughout her life. Round Midnight features 9 tracks of classic Jazz tunes performed admirably by the aforementioned musicians.
The strong-voiced, yet sweet singing Taylor chose the 9 tracks based on her appreciation of the lyrics and emotional attachment to the melodies. After listening to the CD, there's no doubt that she's made each song her own personal statement.
Round Midnight begins with a groovy rendition of ‘Too Close for Comfort’, in which keyboardist Teixeira follows the melody with a nice solo. Dena sings the melody out, and leaves the listener wanting more.
‘That Old Black Magic’ continues with an addictive Latin groove. The bridge ‘brings the swing’, and again Teixeira has a chance to show his improvisational skills with a very supportive rhythm section.
Monk’s ballad is up next to slow things down a bit. Here Taylor’s vocal skills are in full display. She lends some well-timed vibrato and phrasing to the inherent beauty of the melody.
Other tracks you won’t want to miss are ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’ and ‘Our Love is Here to Stay.’ Both tunes feature the rhythm section trading ‘4’s’, demonstrating their intuitive and supportive interplay. The bonus track ‘Route 66’ features guitar and you won’t want to miss the Bossa ‘I’m a Fool to Want You’.
Round Midnight is a collection of timeless American standards that is a perfect traveling companion for a summer journey. Forget the ‘pain at the pump’. Let Dena Taylor’s sultry voice ease your worries and keep you smiling!
Independent Review by Michael Knight for The Jazz Network
IMC's 2014 Best Female Jazz Artist
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