Donna Byrne

Don't Dream of Anybody But Me

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A gem of a singer, Donna Byrne's latest is a 14-track journey through the pages of the Great American Songbook, and she brilliantly captures the essence of each of these chestnuts. The Boston vocalist knows how to extend herself far beyond mere recitation of words. Her delivery is so engaging, so dazzling, so bright, that each tune is an entertaining foray into the world of the art of jazz vocal. Not only is she equipped with an extraordinary set of vocal chords, as well as excellent and top-of-the-line timing and phrasing, but she does not get hemmed in by conventional vocal wisdom -- she lets her imagination provide the direction for the session. Whether it be on a rousing up-tempo number like "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" (where she uncharacteristically indulges in some scatting going back and forth with Mike Turk's harmonica), to her poignant delivery of "He Was Too Good to Me," Byrne uses the appropriate combination of swing, elan, wit, or romanticism -- whatever is needed to make the performance go. Another factor that makes this CD go are two sets of exemplary musicians who perform their duties as Byrne's supporters, adding their own inventive musical musings. Jazz piano institution and fellow New Englander Dave McKenna once again joins Byrne. But while he makes no attempt to overshadow the singer, his years as a top-flight jazzman come through clearly on tunes such as "My Melancholy Baby." The other pianist on the set, Tim Ray, also shines as he helps with a swinging melody on "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top." Erstwhile reedman Mike Monaghan's slightly biting tenor is in front on tracks such as "East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)." Byrne's regular rhythm section, Jim Gwin on drums and husband Marshall Wood on bass, shows that familiarity in no way breeds contempt but respect, harmony, and mutual admiration. The last two cuts are not on the play list: Track 13 is a lovely medley of "A Cottage for Sale"/"A House Is Not a Home," and track 14 is an off-to-the-races "I Hear Music." Don't Dream of Anybody but Me only solidifies Byrne's position as a major contemporary jazz singer.

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