November 2005

Dione Taylor
Nightlife Jazz Tours 2005 presented by Investors Group
November 25, 2005 George Weston Hall Toronto
Taking the Tunes for a Ride
by Stanley Fefferman with photos by Roger Humbert
I walked into the hall as Dione was singing “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You” (Razaf, Redman, 1929). I was happy: this is one of my favourite tunes. Nat King Cole did it, Ella did it, Ray Charles did it, and lately, Diana Krall did. I always liked the way Peggy Lee did it on her 1956 LP Black Coffee (still in print). Anyway, now I was hearing how Dione did it, and I loved it. She is a real blues shouter. Her voice romps through the tune big time feisty. She’s got that gospel-blues phrasing with just the right pauses and managed to implicate in her lyric the names of Doug Riley (on piano), and Pat LaBarbera (saxes) and got laughs out of them and herself without missing a beat of Pat Collins’ fine bass.

Her next tune, homage to the Eurythmics, was “Sweet Dreams (are made of this)”. Davide DiRenzo, the-drummer-who-has-fun, led off. Though she has a lot of brass in her voice, Dione did this one in a breathy style, low and smoky, à la Cassandra Wilson. At this point, I had settled down enough to notice how rotten the sound system is in this acoustically marvelous hall, distorting voice and instruments with a blurring echo. I have always enjoyed chamber ensembles including vocalists here, so I took a moment to wonder why a jazz quartet needs to mike at all. No good reason came to mind.

She went through a couple of originals including “Rollercoaster Man”, which sounds a bit like “Fever” (also on the aforementioned Peggy Lee album), about a guy who is not there half of the time and, “I’ll Be There” about a girl who promises to be there full time. Since I didn’t really get involved in the sort of sappy lyric of this one, my mind drifted off into a relaxed state, and I realized, that I was actually enjoying being afloat in the atmosphere that Dione creates through her song and the excellent arrangements that support her.

This feature of Dione’s style became very clear in a later number, Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things.” These are very hip, chic, Sinatra-trademarked lyrics. Nonetheless, Dione let go of them early in the verse, sliding and slurring and mumbling her way into an awesome scat sequence, letting the beat and the sound of her vocal rhythms carry the musical message, supported by the right on comping of Doug Riley’s piano. As my friend and colleague Joyce Corbett put it during the intermission that followed,” She really took that tune for a ride.”

Dione is so good, so authentic, we had to try and guess who she had learned all this from. “So Many Stars” gave us hints of Sarah Vaughan and her flexible range; Styne and Kahn’s “Beautiful Friendship” (1956) gave me a solid hit on Dee Dee Bridgewater—her phrasing, her humour and her range of tones. Dee Dee learned a lot from Ella, and it was Ella who made the tune famous, so there it is. Dione covered Stevie Wonder’s “Send One Your Love”, almost covered Nancy Wilson, and paid full homage to her acknowledged model, Aretha Franklin in “Today I Sing the Blues.” And believe me, this girl does sing the blues. When Dione Taylor’s second CD comes out this summer, backed by the same ensemble, believe me when I tell you, I’ll be there.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Stanley Fefferman
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Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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