One of the treats one gets from reviewing jazz CDs is the discovery of someone with uncommon talent making their debut on CD. Such is the case with New York vocalist Debra Holly. Like others in similar circumstances, Holly paid her dues by working in a variety of venues, including musical comedy, cabaret, and in clubs with combos and big bands before getting an opportunity to get into a studio. She uses this training to advantage here as she works with a small group and a larger band. Holly applies her uncanny phrasing and timing to a mixed play list of standards and less-familiar material. Not having a big voice, she leans toward a relaxed, unpretentious stance in delivering the material, much like Peggy Lee, as well as one of her contemporaries, Stacey Kent. But most meaningful, she sings the material in a straightforward but mellow manner that allows the listener to get optimum enjoyment out of the performance. Although she works well with small and large assemblies, it's the quintet that sets off her graceful voice the best. Derek Smith's piano leading the instrumental convoy with Gary Keller's rich, full tenor noodling underneath makes such tracks as "Beyond the Sea" special. Holly shows that she can also fancy a playful romp with the novelty tune "Addams Family." The sparkling arrangements for the set were charted by veteran conductor Angelo DiPippo, and he recognized that simple, rather than convoluted, is the best setting for the singer. The arrangement for a swinging version of "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" is especially engaging. I'll Never Forget You is a commendable first outing and hopefully is a portend of more good things to come from the gifted Debra Holly. Recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan