CD Notes - The Nearness of Two
Dena DeRose - Marvin Stamm Duo
The concert you hear on this CD was performed July 14, 2006. It came about just by happenstance as did this recording of the concert. Neither Dena nor I were aware at the time that an archival recording was being made of our performance, and the fact that its quality was so good was a surprise to us all. Sometimes, things just work out well.
In 2006 I was invited to teach at the St. Louis Music College in Rome, an invitation I was honored to accept. Having also recently met Giancarlo DiNaploi, one of the producers of the Ancona Jazz Festival, I, upon accepting this invitation, contacted him to see if there might be any opportunity of my performing in Ancona while in Italy. Giancarlo seemed delighted with the idea and suggested a duo concert with singer/pianist Dena DeRose, who he said had quite a following in Ancona. I had met Dena, but we had never played together nor had I ever heard her perform. My friend, pianist Bill Mays, had spoken to me several times about Dena, always with the greatest of respect, and I was very excited about the idea of working in this duo setting with her. Within a short time, Giancarlo had arranged for us to do an opening concert at the Ancona Jazz Festival for a select audience. Since I had yet to hear Dena sing, I bought several of her CDs and loved them; but knowing that live performances are even better than recordings, I was even more excited about our playing together.
After my teaching sojourn at the St. Louis School, I arrived in Ancona by train from Rome, and Dena came by air from Spain. We had a short rest and then met at the concert hall for a half-hour “talk-over” to choose the tunes we wanted to play for our ninety-minute concert. As I said, we had never played together before this concert, and, unbeknownst to me, Dena had never performed “in duo” with a horn player. After our choosing the music we would play, we went for a lovely dinner in a small restaurant that provided marvelous Italian fare of the region – which started our evening on the right footing.
Our concert in the lovely two-hundred-seat hall was to an audience of very enthusiastic listeners. From our opening notes, the music blossomed. It was as though Dena and I had performed together many times. Playing in duo can be very precarious because both musicians are totally exposed. There is nowhere to hide, no drums or bass to provide cover for either instrument. But this kind of concert is easy when the two musicians are of like mind and have the ability to closely, hear what his or her partner is doing, and then play and respond with great sensitivity. To me, Dena certainly possesses all these qualities; joining with her while she sang and played piano was an easy task, a real joy. The ninety minutes flew quickly and the concert ended much too soon. Our audience loved what we did and insisted on an encore, which we willingly provided. They wanted yet another tune, but adhering to the rule of “always leaving them wanting more,” we bowed out. It was a marvelous time; one which both Dena and I hope will sometime be repeated.
Dena is outstanding, both as a singer and as a pianist. If she were a vocalist only, this would hold true, and the same would be the case if she were only a pianist. But Dena is extraordinary in both areas - and I do mean extraordinary! She has quickly become a favorite musician of mine.
When she sings, Dena phrases like an instrumentalist, like a horn-player, without resorting to any of the gimmicky vocal affectations that many singers use. She sings wonderfully in tune with a pure, clear tone quality. She has total control of her voice, never straining in any register. It is easy to hear and to understand her lyrics; she seems to be speaking directly to each listener. I can’t remember hearing anyone who sings with more clarity.
Dena’s piano-playing is of the same level of excellence as her singing. She demonstrates beautiful technique, but it is her musical expression, her lines and creativity that are so captivating. Working with Dena is a joy because she is so very sensitive to and attuned with whomever she may be performing. It is not all about “Dena,” but rather about the musical partnership.
The true testament to her talents is what other musicians feel about her music. As I stated above, Bill Mays brought Dena to my attention; he loves Dena’s playing – and singing. As well, our mutual friends, bassist Martin Wind and drummer Matt Wilson – members of her trio – also love working with Dena and greatly respect her talent.
For me, the whole experience was fantastic! I am so happy that this concert was professionally recorded. It is a wonderful representation of what can happen spontaneously when two jazz musicians on the same wavelength join their skills and talents. This recording is unedited; the music you hear happened just as we played it that evening in Ancona. I am very proud of this music and would gladly welcome any opportunity to perform with Dena – anytime, anywhere!