Dee Alexander: This Bitter Earth
This Bitter Earth
Dee Alexander (vocals)
Wild is the Wind (Blujazz 3369)
Dee Alexander (vocals),
Mike Logan (piano), Harrison Bankhead (bass), Leon Joyce, Jr. (drums, percussion).
Composed by Clyde Lovern Otis.
Recorded: Morton Grove, IL, date not given. Released January 2009
Rating: 98/100 (learn more)
If indeed the cream rises to the top, it's inevitable that Dee Alexander, who has already won local awards recognizing her immense talent in her native city of Chicago, should soon receive similar accolades internationally. Her third CD, Wild is the Wind, is quite simply one of the very best releases by a jazz singer so far in 2009. On it, Alexander acknowledges two of her inspirations, with powerful interpretations of three tunes associated with Nina Simone, as well as "This Bitter Earth," first recorded by Dinah Washington in 1959. Washington's version came after she had entered her commercial period, and is hindered by her emotionally restrained delivery and a plodding string arrangement.
Alexander, on the other hand, lets it all out, with vocal inflections, nuances, and other devices that at times recall not only Dinah, but Nancy Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and Ernestine Anderson--but at little cost to and without diminishing her own unmistakable musical personality. (Wilson, Franklin, and James also recorded the tune.) Alexander sings "This Bitter Earth" at a deliberate tempo that allows her to stretch and savor notes and syllables, and artfully utilizes space for dramatic effect. Mike Logan's piano accompaniment is strictly old school, soulful and patiently appropriate, and his solo has a Gene Harris flair and glow. Alexander's stunning command is reaffirmed when she revisits the lyrics, putting her final stamp on them with a succulent held-note falsetto. Just listen to this track and her treatment of "Wild is the Wind" and you will be forever hooked on this vital singer.
Reviewer: Scott Albin