Darius de Haas

Day Dream: Variations on Strayhorn

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The son of bass player Eddie de Haas, who worked with Chet Baker and Von Freeman, singer Darius de Haas has looked to other areas to make his mark as an entertainer. He's appeared on the musical stage, won an Obie award for The Running Man, and appeared in Spike Lee's Malcolm X. De Haas has dedicated his debut album to the works of the forever-enduring Billy Strayhorn. Possessing considerable range, including reaching to the high-falsetto expanse, de Haas treats each of Strayhorn's songs, whether it be one of the more recognizable ones or lesser-performed tunes, with respect bordering on reverence. He's also looked to others who have written variations on Strayhorn's music for inspiration and material. "My Flame Burns Blue" is "Blood Count" with new lyrics by Elvis Costello. De Haas is not afraid to take risks with songs written by arguably one of the best composers of all time. "Take the 'A' Train" is a wild, blustering arrangement, with the singer combining with the swaggering sax of Roy Nathanson -- -- who gets plenty of space on this CD -- -- giving Duke Ellington's signature song an R&B bent. Even the upbeat material, such as "Just a-Sittin' and a-Rockin'," gets profound with de Haas and the band giving this swinger a gospel-like veneration. That's the one shortcoming in an otherwise fine debut. One wishes that de Haas would lighten up a bit and not treat each song as if it were the 23rd Psalm put to music. He comes close on a bluesy "Your Love Has Faded" and "Take All My Loves." There just needs to be some more of this lighter stuff. But for a comprehensive, well-turned-out visit to Strayhorn by a highly skilled set of musicians, this album is recommended.

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