Dawn Clement


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She's a vocalist at times, but it's her ability on the piano that sets Dawn Clement apart from the crowd. The songs chosen for this, her sophomore album as a bandleader, are largely from the realm of the jazz torch song, but with a handful of original compositions and a few surprises thrown in. Clement has a tiny, gentle singing voice -- definitely youthful but with something of the breathy, kittenish quality of Portishead's Beth Gibbons as well. When she gets into a piano groove, though, the magic comes out. Clement can bust through arpeggios in the vein of Art Tatum for brief periods, and thump through a stride piano solo in the vein of Fats Waller equally well. But it's in her more lyrical outings that the music seems more truly her own. As sheer accompaniment for her vocal passages, the sound is fairly modal, without too much embellishment. Yet when she gets into a warbling solo (as on the opening number), there's a good sense of timing and energy that carries the song through from a standard rhythm intro to something much more interesting within moments. An excellent album -- while the vocals in some pieces don't compare with the intensity in others, the two portions are always matched perfectly.

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