All Things in Time
DENNIS DAY-All Things in Time When a vocalist, particularly an African-American male singer, is confident enough to record songs so strongly associated with Johnny Hartman, Joe Williams, Nat "King" Cole, and Sammy Davis, Jr., you question his bravado and wait to listen to the result of such audacity. Dennis Day is not afraid of the challenge, and if he doesn't completely wrest the tunes from their progenitors, he puts his unique stamp and vibrato on a few of these standards from the American songbook. What stands out most with this Harlem-based singer is his versatility. Day's pleasant baritone, with dollops of second-tenor silkiness, is as warm and inviting on ballads as it is bouncy and exciting on the up-tempo tunes. From the opening, "Caravan," you have embarked on a global excursion of melodies with touches of Brazil, Africa, the Mississippi Delta, London, and delightful forays into those evergreens of Tin Pan Alley. On "All Things in Time," his first jazz CD, Day is backed by some of the finest musicians one can summon, including pianist Danny Mixon, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, trumpeter Joey Morant, pianist John DiMartino, and vibist Stefon Harris. Day's version of "Everything Must Change" is a perfect showcase for his range and interpretive skills, and together with the obbligato from the flutist Cleave Guyton, the song provides an irresistible charm that moves the listener to a wistful and tender comfort zone. Cue the lovers! The lovers will also welcome Day's lilting sway on "Desafinado" and his mellifluous swing on "Taking a Chance on Love," which is accentuated by his choice of some rarely sung lyrics. In these songs, texture, sensitivity, and lyrical interpretation combine, affirming that, indeed, old wine in new kegs can indeed prove savory, even after scores of covers. Hopefully the jazz gods smile approvingly. Day's passion for words is no surprise for a musician who is also a very fine writer and whose byline used to grace the pages of New York City's Amsterdam News. But Day should not even think about banging out those articles anymore. By putting those words to music, he has truly found his métier as well as his meter, whether on novelty tunes like his haunting original ballad "African Musing" or on the folkloristic cover, "Trouble Down Here Below." After the lovers have expended their romantic inclinations, Day has a few spirited numbers to get them to resume their romp around the globe, but they had better hurry, because the singer is a veritable will o' wisp on "The Trolley Song," which segues neatly into "Get Me to the Church on Time," attenuated by the ebullient, high-energy be bop staccato musings of Ellington orchestra alumnus trumpeter James Zollar. Day's "Blues Medley" treatment echoes deep roots in Chicago and southern musical influences. Framed by his relaxed, lyrical style, the song is accented with stellar blues riffs of veteran guitarist Melvin Sparks and capped by a foot-stompin' piano solo from Danny Mixon. This repertoire of jazz and blues is a veritable potpourri, shifting in mood, timbre, and musical intensity. Bright moments and surprising musical departures are in full play in Day's melodious presentation of narratives. The Horace Silver classic "Sister Sadie" offers a buoyant playfulness captured by the masterful sliding moans and wails of New Orleans trombonist Wycliffe Gordon. The facile trumpet solos of Joey Morant, an alumnus of Ray Charles' band, complete the blues segments of the CD. Pianist John Miller, an early musical director in Day's inaugural New York City-based groups, adds tasteful accompaniments on old favorites like "Hallelujah I Love Her So" and he and the soulful sax of Jason Curry ably embellish the standard "You Are Too Beautiful." Other notable musicians rounding out Day's jazz recording debut include bassist Lisle Atkinson, who provides a lilting bass solo on the ballad "Who Can I Turn To," bassist Eric Lemon, and Latin percussionist Willie Martinez. Versatile drummer Earl Grice appears on all 12 tracks, ensuring that "All Things in Time" stays in time. Yes, Day's debut jazz CD pays homage to those singers he admires. But this is his moment, and it's a good chance this isn't the last time we'll hear from him. How about "Night and Day?" Now, there's a tune that fits him to a tee, one he can really turn to. Dennis Day's New CD by Herb Boyd (Special to the Amsterdam News) Vol 99 No. 20 May 8 - May 14, 2008, New York, New York.