DAWN LAMBETH

Dawn Lambeth, the quiet West Coast sensation, has just released her second CD, in the fine tradition of Maxine Sullivan and Mildred Bailey. She is an understated but compelling singer who fits wonderfully into small jazz groups — there’s no letdown when the soloists give way to the vocal — and the results are charming without ever being self-consciously nostalgic. Dawn isn’t one of those girl singers who found a Billie Holiday record a life-changing experience, not that there’s anything wrong with that — but then went off to imitate Lady Day. Dawn sounds like herself, which is a fine thing. You won’t think of her voice first — she doesn’t strive for coloratura effects — but she swings and can tell a story. What more could anyone wish for? She has a dark-toned alto and an easy, conversational way of addressing lyrics as if she believed in the words and the sentiment. She finds new notes to sing that seem just right, and her time (crucial for this lilting variety of jazz) is both right-on and flexible: she plays with the beat, pushing forward here and hesitating there, elongating a syllable you wouldn’t expect or cutting one short that another singer would have drawn out for melodrama. She fits right in with the instrumental soloists, stays at their level, and inspires them. But you’ll hear this for yourself. And hear this you should! Both of her CDs are available through Worlds Records and CD Baby (see the blogroll to visit their sites) and they are rare pleasures.

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