Soul turned jazz vocalist and East Chicago, Illinois native Dennis Day’s background includes an early background in church music, followed by singing in the world famous Fisk University Choir. Later work as a demo artist in Nashville led to work with the Blackbyrds, followed by high profile gigs in New York at venues such as The Blue Note. Over the years, some of the artists he’s worked with included Frank Foster, Clark Terry, and the late Dorothy Donegan.
In the vocal jazz genre, the hardest thing to find is a male artist who has a unique take on the art without sounding like a clone of one of jazz’s vocal legends, like Jon Hendricks, Joe Williams, Eddie Jefferson or Mark Murphy. Day is one of the few who stands out on his own. His R&B and soul background helps to create a delivery as smooth as George Benson, but as soulfully-jazz oriented as Andy Bey. Day’s ability to dig into the lyrics with a warmth and smooth texture, as sweet as anything the Temptations sang, yet with a rhythmic sense truly inflected with jazz conceptualizations, is outstanding.
For example, on "Trouble Down Here Below," the delivery is all soul except for the skilled and artful small vocal slides, which make Day’s work stand out from the pack. "You Are Too Beautiful" has a tenderness reminiscent of Johnny Hartman’s best work and "Caravan" is swinging all the way.
Day is accompanied by some big name artists like trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, Stefon Harris on marimbas, and guitarist Melvin Sparks, as well as others who are good, but as yet, unsung. Together, they play with a minimalistic approach that sets up Day’s full bodied tone to its best effect. Standouts include Jason Curry’s alto solo on "You Are Too Beautiful," Jason Zollar’s scorching trumpet work on the dizzingly fast "The Trolley Song/Get Me To The Church On Time" medley, and John Miller’s vibrant and joyous piano work on "Hallelujah, I Love Her So!"
The best tracks include Day’s original "African Musing" and "Who Can I Turn To?" "African" is a stately Latin-tinged soulfully slow Caribbean-ish song that provides Day the room his expansive voice requires in order to fully express his heart’s inherent compassion and gentleness. Stefon Harris’ dryly articulate marimba work, while subtle, is essential to bringing out the spirit of mother Africa. The resultant effect is as stunning as the last falsetto notes Day sweetly conjures. "Who," on the other hand, is vintage Day. Here again the use of a minimalistic background gives Day the spotlight his voice requires and deserves. Overall this disc is an unexpected joy, and worth checking out.