New York centered jazz singer and lyricist Dorian Devins first rocked my sensitive Southern Consciousness in 2013 with the release of The Procrastinator (Rain1 Jazz). Devins marked a return to that jazz step-child, vocalese: the application of lyrics to well-known wordless jazz compositions. The recording was a cornerstone of that year. Devins played a very large part on The Lou Rainone Quintet +1’s Skydance singing two of her compositions (Rain1jazz, 2015). Here on the fulcrum between then and now, Devins releases CD and EP, Imaginary Release and City Stories, back to back, much to our delight.
Dorian Devins has a genuine knack for intelligent and thoughtful programming for her projects. The Procrastinator focused intensely on vocalese, others and her own. While bringing a remnant of vocalese to Imaginary Release, Devins expands her creative reach to include some classical hybridization and a nod to the age of Classic Rock. A cheeky allusion to the fact that this release will be available only in a digital format, Imaginary Release shows both creative and performance growth on the part of Devins. The singer adapts two Eric Satie melodies for the medium tempo “Lament for the Moon” and the Eastern-slanted “Satie-ated,” both with the harmonic help of husband/pianist Lou Raineone. Devins extends this Eastern motif into Traffic’s “Hidden Treasures.” She does a straight vocalese on the Ellington/Lee classic, “I’m Gonna Go Fishin'” where her performance is tart, precise, and swinging. Devins’ phrasing presently has no peer. The singer penned words for Wayne Shorter‘s “Conundrum,” making a slick Latin piece punctuated by Rainone’s fine piano interludes. Her straight jazz here is formidable. Leonard Bernstein‘s “Some Other Time” is delicately arranged by Rainone and sung by Devins, displaying her potent alto voice. Benny Goodman‘s “Lullaby in Rhythm” is freshened up considerably, and features Richie Vitale‘s sharp trumpet playing and Tom Christensen‘s woody reeds. The surprise center of the recording is Tim Hardin’s “Misty Roses,” transformed by Rainone and Devins into a light samba featuring bassist Tom Hubbard. Devins continues to prove to be exception in concept and execution.
Less an afterthought to Imaginary Release, City Stories is a project inspired by a separate muse, one focusing on New York City. Recorded during the same sessions as Imaginary Release, City Stories exists as a unique palette-cleanser allowing Devins arrange effectively a suite to her home base. “Sidewalk Waltz” is a frantic original by Devins, delivered at the staccato rate of the city. Tom Christensen’s muscular tenor recalls Michael Breckerr on a tear. Rainone’s “Wayward Soul” captures the fatigue of the city, stopping to rest. Devins’ voice is cushioned by the horns. Jobim’s “This Happy Madness” and Bob Dorough’s “Devil May Care” frame the expansiveness of the city. Think of City Stories as the fine cognac…heady and sharp. (Writtten By