With a powerful four-octave voice that sounds as if it's been fermented in the blues, singer Dee Daniels has fronted big bands and symphony orchestras over the course of her 30-year career. But as the title implies, her new CD, Intimate Conversations,
is a collection of deeply personal duo performances. Choosing songs with lyrics that are themselves conversational, Daniels engages with a roster of jazz luminaries that includes pianist Cyrus Chestnut, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, guitarist Russell Malone and saxophonist Houston Person.
What inspired this collection of duets?
It's something I've wanted to do for a long time. I wanted every song to be intimate, as though I'm speaking directly to someone. I had a feeling that with each of these musicians, we'd be able to have a conversation based on the content of the story line in each song. And that's exactly what happened. I was over the moon with the results. Since these songs are themselves conversations, did you imagine a specific person on the other end of each one?
No, not a specific person, but more of a total sum experience. For instance, with the song "Get Here," I've had experiences, whether they were romantic or a friendship, where you really miss a person and you want them to he there at that time. The only exception was the song "You'll Never Walk Alone," where I was thinking of my daughter. I want her to know that whether I'm alive or I've passed on, I'll always be with her.
How did you pair your musical partners with specific songs?
There was already a personal relationship in addition to the musical relationship with each one of these guys, so I knew that I'd be able to converse musically with them, and I tried my best to select the vehicle that would be best-suited for each one. We're exposed, the two of us, so it wouldn't be enough for somebody to just come in and read down a chart. From the musical point of view, they enhance the storyline to help the listener create a memory in their mind. To me, good storytelling is all about guiding people into remembering their own personal experiences. You work in so many different settings. What does that bring to you as a performer?
A whole lot of joy. Being in the moment is the bottom line for all of these experiences, no matter how many other people are on the stage. I never consider myself a singer with a group, no matter how big or small the group is. Flexibility is the key word when I'm on stage, because then you allow for spontaneous combustion, for people to be inspired and motivated, even when you have 90 people on stage.