This is Washington, D.C.-based Diane Hubka's second album for the Netherlands' A-Records. Even more so than on her first album, she avoids the classic standards favored by many contemporary singers. Instead, the playlist is dominated by "off-beat" songs, i.e., tunes that don't get that much recording attention even though they were composed by well-known writers like Richard Rodgers, Jobim, and Jules Styne. This is risky, requiring a lot of confidence to pull it off. Hubka obviously has this confidence, because this is as entertaining an album as has hit the streets for quite a while, and it doesn't have a single bad track. "In Walked John," Malachi Thompson's lyrical tribute to John Coltrane, is one of the highlights. Hubka's delivery is straightforward but compelling, while everyone gets an opportunity to stretch out to pay their homage to Coltrane. Especially commanding is Scott Whifield's trombone solo and Frank Kimbrough's piano. Kimbrough's piano is the grout which keeps everything in place on this recording session. "Never Never Land" (somewhere between Oz and Wonderland, it sounds like), has a fairy tale aura about it. Along with Hubka's delicate phrasing, there's an extended solo by guitarist John Hart with Tony Moreno's drums providing energetic punctuation in support. Hubka shows that she is no slouch with a guitar as she honors one of her mentors, Bob Dorough, on "Small Day Tomorrow." With Hart's guitar dispensing complementary chords, Hubka goes into the blues with Hoagy Carmichael's "Baltimore Oriole." Meredith d'Ambrosio, another singer who explores distinctive material, is recognized as Hubka performs her composition "August Moon." There are many other musical virtues here which make this an attractive disc, not the least of which is Hubka's pleasant, crystal-clear voice, as well as her impeccable phrasing and the spirited interplay between Hubka and the ensemble. But perhaps most critical is the balance she strikes between straight singing and wordless vocalizing and scatting. She doesn't scat on every tune, but when she does, it becomes a tasteful contribution to the lyrical message she is conveying. This album is highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan