Dee Daniels Has a Way With Words


Singer Dee Daniels showed a lot of range Sunday at Steamers Cafe in Fullerton during her appearance with bassist John Clayton’s trio. Not only did her voice range between octaves, but Daniels also showed off skills as a composer-lyricist and took a turn at the piano.

Her original songs were cleverly soulful, and the piano accompaniment she provided was spirited enough, yet it was her voice that was in the spotlight. Daniels’ hearty tones, jazz-wise phrasing and triumphant scat showed why she’s considered among the cream of mainstream jazz singers.

Teaming with respected arranger-bandleader Clayton gave Daniels’ performance added weight and let the conductor of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra show his skills as an accompanist.

Clayton, who wrote some of the arrangements for “Wish Me Love,” Daniels’ recent German album with the Danish Metropole Orchestra, provided much of the arranging here. Even the most familiar numbers were given intriguing treatments. Though it was the first time pianist Tamir Hendelman and drummer Dean Koba had worked with the singer, the evening’s first set came together well.


Daniels joined the trio on “But Not for Me,” done in a demanding stop-and-start fashion. “On a Clear Day” jumped to solid swing. “Come Rain or Come Shine” varied between a walk and a samba. A ballad, “The Masquerade Is Over,” framed Daniels in plush, spacious style.

Through the beginning of her set, Daniels focused on earthy tones in her lower register. Then, on an up-tempo version of “Autumn Leaves,” she moved into an instrumental-like scat, swooping like a trombone into higher and higher pitches. She ended the tune on a dramatic high note that was greeted with cheers.

Daniels varied her delivery along rhythmic lines, singing on the beat or phrasing against the accompaniment. She was especially engaging on “Come Rain or Come Shine,” drawing in the audience with deep, evenly paced tones. Her patient phrasing on “The Masquerade Is Over” made it powerfully intimate.

She used her own material to soar. “Love Ain’t Love Without You” was a disarming plea with a gospel feel. The upbeat blues of “I’ve Got This Bridge I Want You to Buy” stereotyped the foibles of middle-aged men, yet did so with cutting wit.

Hendelman and Koba showed considerable sympathy for the singer’s involved style. Clayton’s sense of pulse and ability to play counter-melodies gave the singer a broad base from which to work.

On its own, the trio toyed with “Frankie and Johnnie,” Clayton stating the familiar vamp on his upright, then performed Hendelman’s thoroughly modern “Intersection.” In a medley, Clayton’s bowed “Nature Boy” solo framed the romantic “Island,” a sunny piece that featured warm Hendelman improvisation.