Last year's aptly titled State of the Art
teamed Dee Daniels with an ace quartet anchored by pianist Cyrus Chestnut. For Daniels' encore, her 10th studio album as leader, Chestnut is again onboard, but as one in a spectrum of stellar guests. As its name implies, Intimate Conversations
places Daniels in cozy duo and trio settings, also featuring Martin Wind, Wycliffe Gordon, Ken Peplowski, Russell Malone, Ted Brancato, Houston Person and Bob Kindred.
Among the current crop of American vocalists, Daniels is, with her four-octave range, surely the most soulful and as close to a modern-day Sarah Vaughan as you're likely to get. Though she and Wind open with a loose, easy "Exactly Like You," this is truly a balladic album with an after-midnight feel. End to end it is a towering study in less-is-more virtuosity: Gordon's trombone trimming a dreamily intense "All the Way," Malone's guitar gently propelling "4AM," Person's bruised shading of "A Song for You," Kindred's puckish emboldening of "Don't Touch Me," Wind's virtuosic transformation of "I Wish You Love," how perfectly Peplowski, on clarinet, and Brancato , on electric piano, punctuate the naked yearning of "I Who Have Nothing." As for Chestnut, his trio of appearances is understatedly stunning: coyly seductive on Daniels' "Come Try My Love," softly assertive on Brenda Russell's "Get Here" and gracefully majestic on the closing "You'll Never Walk Alone."