Although The Madness of Our Love is her maiden album for Blue Note, Denise Jannah is not new to the jazz singing world. Shortly after graduating from the prestigious Hilverstrom Conservatory in Europe, she cut her first album for the Dutch Timeless label. For her Blue Note debut, she has selected a play list of nine standards and three of her own compositions. The latter add considerably to the album and show significant compositional skills. Her lyrics to "Wide Awake" tell a story listeners can relate to. The arrangement, featuring Ira Coleman's bass, goes a long way to making this track meaningful. Her other two originals "The Madness of Our Love" and "If Only" are similarly formidable works.
It is her way with the standards that provides the real test for Jannah's command of the jazz vocal art. It is these tunes that best allow her to show her versatility and creativity. "My Favorite Things" allows Jannah to indulge in some very tasteful scatting as she shifts from vocalizing to trading craggy, accented beats with Carl Allen's drums. "Softly As in a Morning Sunrise" is the most prominent vehicle for her wordless vocalizing as she uses her voice as a horn, working in, through, and around Ira Coleman's basslines giving considerable freshness to this Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein operetta warhorse. "Dearly Beloved" and "Just You, Just Me" reveal another facet of Jannah's mastery: the ability to handle up-tempo material without becoming frenetic. These tunes retain their bounce while at the same time the beat remains under control. There's some fine piano soloing on these tunes by Bert van den Brink, an accomplished jazz pianist from Holland. Bert van den Brink not only accompanies and is the musical director for Jannah, but he works steadily with another vocalist of note, Dee Dee Bridgewater. Johnny Mandel's "The Shadow of Your Smile" is given French lyrics and is titled "Le Sourire de Mon Amour," coming across low and sultry showing that Jannah can be sensuous when the occasion calls for it. Possessing a highly developed middle register, some of the most impeccable phrasing and diction of any singer around, and the ability to use her musical backup to emphasize the finer points of her voice make Denise Jannah one of the most promising vocalists on today's scene. The Madness of Our Love is recommended.