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Barbara Levy Daniels’ song stylings search for style and miss the song

Barbara Levy Daniels on the cover of her new album
Barbara Levy Daniels on the cover of her new album

Love Lost and Found is the latest (third) album from Barbara Levy Daniels, who has interleaved her pursuit of jazz song styling with a 30-year practice in psychotherapy. The thirteen tracks on this album provide an extended sampling from the American songbook, reaching all the way back to 1927 (“My Heart Stood Still,” composed by Richard Rogers with lyrics by Lorenz Hart) and up to 1946 (“I Got Lost in His Arms,” by Irving Berlin). Daniels’ rhythm section consists of pianist (and Musical Director) John DiMartino, guitarist Paul Myers, drummer Shinnosuke Takahashi, and Boris Kozlov on bass. Warren Vaché brings his cornet to eight of the tracks (usually muted); and, because Daniels focuses primarily on shaping her lyrics, his solos, along with several contributions from DiMartino, are the main source of jazz improvisation.

Whether Daniels’ vocal technique reflects her psychotherapeutic practices, her approach to styling these songs is basically to try to deliver each as her side of an intimate conversation. Unfortunately, this is not enough to carry any of the songs as if they were songs. Her pitch tends to be consistently weak and particularly uncertain on her first notes, no matter how much reinforcement is provided by the instruments. In addition, that conversational style often undermines the phrasing of the music itself. Even her diction occasionally falters, as when “we sent out invitations” in “It’s the Talk of the Town” comes out as “with Saddam invitations.”

The result is a disappointing selection in which style overrides substance, a poor showing for thirteen songs that are practically classics from Tin Pan Alley.