Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Michael Dees: The Dream I Dreamed

Jazzed Media
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: The Dream I Dreamed

I’ve not reviewed a male vocalist for quite some time, but then ages have passed since coming across one as good as Michael Dees. That’s actually a shame, because he has been around for years; Dees is a “stealth” singer with a quite lengthy résumé, but he simply isn’t well known to the public.

Which doesn’t mean that you’ve not been exposed to him, although likely without being aware of it. Dees had a long career as a studio singer. Back in the 1960s, he appeared on TV’s Steve Allen Show; he recorded an album of his own music; he soundtrack work in numerous films, including the TV movies The Rat Pack and The Mystery of Natalie Wood, along with hundreds of commercials and jingles. For the most part, though, he was singing “other people’s songs.”

This release features his own stuff, both lyrics and music. And it’s excellent.

It may be a bit of a stretch to identify Dees as a jazz singer, but if icons such as Frank Sinatra are so classified, then so be it. Dees’ voice is gentle, warm and smooth, and his interpretation is sincere. He means every line he sings, and his inflections and timing are both jazz-related; whether the style is balladic or up-tempo, he swings.

He also recognizes the value of being backed by excellent musicians. The combo that supports him here features pianist Terry Trotter, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Steve Schaeffer, along with Steve Huffsteter and Sal Marquez on trumpet and flugelhorn, Bob Sheppard and Doug Webb on woodwinds, and Don Williams on percussion. The group is truly jazz oriented, and the arrangements of Dees’ 14 tracks give them plenty of room to demonstrates their prowess.

Most of the songs are love-themed ballads; they come across as a possible biographical history of the singer’s life. The “stories” they tell require clear and understandable lyrics, and Dees certainly provides that.

As an “elder citizen” — Dees is in his 70s — he’s on par with the best singers past and present.

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