It's You or No One - Dana Lauren (Dana Lauren Music) - I had the opportunity to interview the young Hartford-area native Dana Lauren the week this CD was issued. Her effervescence and excitement shone through the phone lines and that youthful exuberance (she's but 21 years old) gives way to a mature sounding vocalist in this, her second recording. With the cracker-jack rhythm section of Luques Curtis (bass) and Jake Goldbas (drums) ably abetted by Manuel Valera (piano), Will Graefe (guitar) and Joel Frahm (tenor saxophone), the program of standards is a refreshing listen.
Ms. Lauren cites Ella Fitzgerald and Doris Day among her influences and one hears that in her clear tones and fine enunciation. Everyone plays well throughout and there is one guest appearance by bassist Christian McBride - it's just voice and bass on "On The Sunny Side of the Street". She certainly holds her own with the wonderfully musical McBride, "riffing" her way through the lyrics. Elsewhere, the joyful work of Frahm and the way he weaves his way through the vocals is a real treat. He never intrudes but plays the most creative solos. Guitarist Graefe appears on 5 tracks, with his Herb Ellis-like chords leading the vocalist in on "Isn't This A Lovely Day" and his bell -like tones and crisp single-notes lines adding much to "I Had The Craziest Dream." Valera, who is quite a player, gives great support on 7 tracks, laying smart chords beneath the vocals. It's just him and Ms. Lauren on "In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning" and his flowing lines and full chords add to the wistfulness and beauty of the piece.
Dana Lauren is a artist who knows what she wants and has the talent (and the vocal "chops") to achieve her dreams. Chances are, you've heard many of these songs done by other artists but Ms. Lauren makes this music exciting once again. For more information, go to www.danalauren.com.
Tivoli Trio - Frank Carlberg (Red Piano Records) - For his second project on his own label, the Finnish-born pianist/composer has created a soundtrack highly influenced by an amusement park in his native Helsinki. In fact, he named this group after the Trio that accompanied many of the acts. His cohorts are the marvelously supportive and musical John Hebert (bassist) and the top-notch Gerald Cleaver (drums). Carlberg is a very musical and thoughtful pianist - throughout this album, his playfulness is infectious. Whether it's his Ornette Coleman-inspired romp through "The Chase" or the cunning reworking of a famous melody on "Two For Tea" (a sweet ballad) or the hectic give-and-take of "Tumbles", this music shines with originality. Hebert and Cleaver are equal partners with Carlberg, his material giving them the freedom to create fascinating musical pictures. Hebert's bowed bass gets the lead on "Highwire" and one can visual him bravely making his way overhead. Cleaver sets the pace and the dynamic "temperature" during "Rumble Mumble", never overplaying or "stealing the show" but playing what's seems perfect for the piece.
Carlberg also gives credit to filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock, Carol Reed, Federico Fellini and others for creating cinematic equivalents to his childhood memories. There's much to digest on "Tivoli Trio" and you should find the time to enter this musical 3-ring circus - a splendid time is guaranteed to all with curious minds. To find out more, go to www.frankcarlberg.com or www.redpianorecords.com.