Jacqui Dankworth,
Detour Ahead
(Candid, 2004)

English jazz singer Jacqui Dankworth may not yet be enjoying the media attention of the likes of Diana Krall and Norah Jones, yet hers is the voice that I most enjoy listening to! Her vocal range and pitch are dynamite; her voice weeps, smiles, swoops and bends with immense ease -- this is a highly assured, elegant album of both original and cover songs, and it shimmers with fine detail.

With Field of Blue behind her, Dankworth has assembled an astonishing backing band -- brother Alec on double bass, ace Manchester guitarist Mike Outram, drummer/percussionist Roy Dodds and pianist Malcolm Edmonstone. Outram in particular expresses himself sublimely on whatever guitar he picks up, and I would personally love to hear more of his work. Edmonstone's contribution to this project is also hugely significant, and I think that, because of him, Detour Ahead becomes even more satisfying musically than Dankworth's last release, As The Sun Shines Down on Me. Edmonstone's piano playing lends elegance and a sure, playful touch to the whole; his restraint is stunningly effective on numbers like "My Romance," "Not Like This" and "Time Takes Its Time."

Dankworth's breathy vocals brim with nuance on "But Beautiful," and Outram's soulful playing is superb here. Title track "Detour Ahead" is the perfect vehicle for Outram's very distinctive voicing, and Dodds creates a real feeling of movement on drums. "The Island" is a beautiful, sensual song that moves you along with its gentle Latin rhythm, and Dankworth's voice literally seems to smile (even wink) at you on Lowe & Learner's "On the Street Where You Live" (Alec Dankworth's bass solo is superb here, too). "Strange Woman" reveals Dankworth's incredibly fine control of vocal pitch -- a beautiful song.

A shining highlight of this collection is "Gentle Rain" -- guest musician Dominic Seldis' bowed bass playing is incredibly beautiful here, delivered with an almost weeping perfection. Outram turns to acoustic guitar on this number -- the accompanying piano and softly brushed drums, together with Dankworth's stunning bass solo, complete the bliss -- magical!

There are 12 tracks on this album -- Dankworth chooses her material well. There's an inspired interpretation of "I Can't Make You Love Me" and a well-paced version of Paul Simon's "Train in the Distance" with a punchy, direct vocal. The album closes with brilliantly controlled guitar playing, great percussion and the fantastic trumpet playing of Linley Hamilton on Dankworth/Outram/Dodd's excellent "Come Home Baby" -- some great vocal effects, too!

This album reveals the exquisite vocal capabilities of Dankworth, the daughter of British jazz musicians Dame Cleo Laine and John Dankworth, and brings to the fore some of the United Kingdom's finest jazz musicians. Warmly recommended.

- Rambles
written by Debbie Koritsas
published 28 August 2004