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Dorothy Leigh, A Second Chance
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September 2011: Intimate Moments review by Bryan Rodgers
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Vocalist Dorothy Leigh and her preferred pianist, Alva Nelson, form an elegant jazz duo on Intimate Moments. Wielding a cache of dramatic ballads, Leigh channels her idols and pours her soul into every song. It’s a well-chosen bunch of tunes, too, with all but a couple falling squarely in Leigh’s range. Her voice is more Ella Fitzgerald than Billie Holiday, residing on the smoother side of traditional jazz vocals. There’s an inherent R&B tinge to her singing as well, less bombastic than one of her favorite singers, Dionne Warwick, but present nonetheless. In any case, this album is all about the songs and the faithful, reverent manner in which they are performed. Leigh gets to live out her Streisand fantasies, she and Nelson work the magic of their time-tested jazz duo setup, and everyone wins, including the listener.

Leigh tackles two songs made famous, or at least more famous, by Babs. “Everything,” from A Star is Born, is re-imagined as a classic piano pop piece in contrast to the slightly swinging original, and Leigh manages to inject a whiff of joy into the wistful classic “When Sunny Gets Blue.” These two songs find Leigh at her most endearing, singing in a register that lets the depth of her voice shine. The satisfaction she gets from emulating and interpreting Streisand is audible on both tracks. Most of the selections on Intimate Moments are in a similar vein of traditional jazz and pop, such as the universally familiar “What a Difference a Day Made” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Nelson proves a formidable talent on the piano, one nearly big enough to carry an entire album on his own. But there’s no mistaking that Leigh is the star here, as evidenced by her brilliant combination of “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” and “In A Sentimental Mood.” The cinematic, narrative style of “What Are You Doing” and the unabashed glee of “Sentimental Mood” give her voice a workout, and she even falters a little during one particularly impassioned passage. But it’s the intent that makes the song work, and the listener gets to hear Leigh come out of her shell a bit. From a technical standpoint, songs don’t come much tougher from a vocal standpoint than Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady” – after all, the original song didn’t even have words. It’s a challenge to sing words that were later added to such a fanciful, restless instrumental, but their daunting melody poses no problem for Leigh and the song is one of the album’s highlights.

Leigh also successfully veers off the beaten path of standards like “Nature Boy” and “What a Difference a Day Makes,” offering tunes from Antonio Carlos Jobim (“Wave”) and Charles Trenet (“I Wish You Love”). Even without the broader instrumentation that Jobim favored, Leigh and Nelson manage to capture a little of the song’s inherent Brazilian rhythm, and “I Wish You Love” has all the heaviosity you’d expect from a Trenet composition, thanks almost entirely to Leigh’s emotive singing. Intimate Moments isn’t the most energetic or original album, and it is yet another in an ever-expanding universe of standards discs, but there’s always room for timeless material and the application of talent. Just ask Leigh, who makes “Our Love is Here to Stay” her own near the end of the album: in the end, a little piano and a little Gershwin will win over the most jaded listener every time.

Review by Bryan Rodgers
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

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