Diane Hubka

I Like It Here: Live in Tokyo

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During Diane Hubka's 2007 trip to Japan, she recorded this live date with a local piano-bass-drums trio singing standards, and the results were sufficient enough for the SSJ label to make it their first U.S. release. A picture perfect vocalist if there ever was one, Hubka uses all her gifts and tools in constrained ways, not taking many chances or pushing the envelope. In essence she really does not have to strain for any notes or extend her emotionalism, for what she does in framing any song and singing it from her heart is plenty good enough. On four songs Hubka plays guitar, and seems as if she's learning on the job, when in fact it brings out more of the troubadour's gypsy spirit in her soul, especially in the Brazilian music style. Her vocals are very much up front and pronounced in the mix to the point where the instrumentalists are a trifle hard to hear distinctly, but frankly, she is the star of the date. At times you could swear Hubka is channeling Anita O'Day on "Get Out of Town," or as she sings with cool and control on "I Like It Here"; her inward comfort level is quite evident. A confident singer on any artistic level, she's as at ease with "Some of My Best Friends Are the Blues" as the wistful "You Go to My Head." While Hubka's strong suit is hearts as displayed on ballads such as the poignant "Angel Eyes" or her work with pianist Kiyoshi Morita on "All My Tomorrows," she's also effective with the loose bossa of "Agua de Beber" or the delicate "Dinji," where she adds her seven-string instrument. Her guitar teacher, Ron Anthony, also contributed tunes like the solemn "It's Always 4 A.M." as she states it's forever that time when you're all alone, and "Faces" in a modal waltz of why. During "One Note Samba," Hubka stretches some vocal phrases a bit, making one wonder why such a skilled and seasoned professional does not take more risks like this. Clearly a crowd pleaser who feels she does not benefit from stretching truths, it would be nice to hear the exceptional talents of Diane Hubka take a farther reaching route. With what she does here, it's good enough for most, and better than 90-percent of the others.

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