Danielle Westphal

High Standards

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The Washington, D.C., area for many years has been one of the more fertile areas for jazz in the country. The area is loaded with recording studios, jazz labels, and more than its share of jazz venues. But most of all, it continues to produce some of the most talented and entertaining jazz performers extant. Among these is vocalist Danielle Westphal, whose High Standards is her first album. Selecting a play list for a first outing is never an easy job. While, as the album title announces, these tunes can be considered standards, they are also tasteful and not always the most common entries from the Great American Songbook. While tunes such as the oft-recorded "Summertime" are present, so is the lesser-known "The Mood That I'm In." There is also a variety in tempos, running from the ballad pace to a medium-tempo "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," where there is some telling arco bass by Peter Revell. Despite the overall familiarity of the play list, Westphal brings several vocal goodies to the table. Here, diction is perfect and sensitivity to the magnitude of the lyrics is true; her diction demands that you listen because it affirms that the words are important. Westphal also has a keen sense of timing, which adds freshness to the material, whether she lags behind, stays with, or moves ahead of the beat. She can also take on a blues inflection, as on "At Last." There is just one drawback to this otherwise scintillating maiden album, and it has little to do with the singer. Dan Reynolds' piano/keyboards and Mike DeLisa's drums sometimes get in the way by being a bit more brazen than they have to. But Westphal's lilting delivery comes through unscathed anyway. Recommended.

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