Vocalist, guitarist and Cambridge, Massachusetts native Diane Hoffman, who earned a BFA from the California College of Arts, currently lives and works in the New York City area. Her punchy voice harkens back to the great cabaret singers of the 1940s, as well as including touches of the late Carmen McRae’s phrasing style. Hoffman has worked throughout the city as well on cruise ships, and occasional television and radio spots.
My Little French Dancer, her second CD as a leader, is a nice, unpretentious little jazzy CD that does what many jazz vocal CDs fail to do: present a set of good tunes without affectation. Her voice is slightly meaty, which only enhances her delivery at climatic moments. Backed by a capable and very jazz oriented rhythm section, together they trip their way through 11 different tunes; some standards and some not.
Oliver Von Essen’s keyboard playing is solid, laying out full-textured chordal accompaniment giving Peter Martin Weiss’ bass and Ulysses Owens’ drums something to groove on and jump in strongly behind. On "Close Enough For Love" their accompaniment erects a frantically exciting tableau that pushes Hoffman’s phrasing into an electrifying result. She has just enough grit in her style to make the tune muscular. It works splendidly.
On ballads like "When Love Was All We Had" and "Blackberry Winter" her voice is able to caress the lines with a pleasing sympathetic quality. John Hart’s guitar solo on "Blackberry" is the model of tastefulness. Similarly saxophonist Jerry Weldon’s saxophone solos also display a predominance of discernment and support. They never forget it’s not their record and instead lend their instruments to support of the music and not individual glory. All-in-all this disc is a handsome presentation of a fine singer.