Jazz vocalist Denise Donatelli is a breath of fresh air in a market seemingly saturated with female singers. Her debut recording, In the Company of Friends is a stunning effort. Donatelli has a warm, sensuous voice and doesn't resort to histrionics to get her message across. She is a natural, not a trained musician, who effortlessly responds to anything that arranger/pianist Tom Garvin threw at her during the making of the CD. She coasts throughout Garvin's 5/4 arrangement of "On Green Dolphin Street" (a great standard too often subjected to hackneyed renditions) as if she had always sung it in that setting. "'Round Midnight" is full of traps for young singers, yet Donatelli proves herself by avoiding them and also serving as an effective storyteller, backed by Clay Jenkins' tasty muted trumpet. Neither is she fazed by Garvin's unusually brisk, dissonant Latin treatment of the ballad "You Don't Know What Love Is," never missing a beat. She also responds rather well to Garvin's reharmonization of "Send in the Clowns," recast as a light samba with many musical twists. Donatelli shows off her chops by scatting in unison with Jenkins and tenor saxophonist Bob Sheppard in a rapid-fire arrangement of "This Is New." Wrapping this brilliant debut CD is Donatelli's effective interpretation of "When Summer Turns to Snow," beautifully scored by Garvin. Phil Woods, never one to couch his opinion, states, "This is too good a record to win anything, but if there is any justice it should." This is one of the most striking debuts by a jazz vocalist in recent memory.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden