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CD REVIEW -- Deanna Bogart

DEANNA BOGART

Pianoland

Blind Pig  Records

Deanna Bogart Pianoland CD

By Leslie Keros

Blues fans may know Deanna Bogart from her work with Tommy Castro on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise (performances which have been captured in all their glory on CD and DVD). An award-winning tenor saxophonist, pianist, singer and composer, Deanna is hardly one to be satisfied with a predictable recording. In Pianoland, her latest album, Deanna applies her adventurous spirit to her first instrument, performing blues and pop-tinged originals alongside boogie-woogie gems from the 1940s.

 

She launches the album with a pair of her own compositions, “In the Rain,” an uptempo shuffle, and “On and On And,” featuring an eerie opening resolving into a quirky romp. Deanna follows these with a lively rendition of Erroll Garner’s “Boogie Woogie Boogie.” Drummer Mike Aubin’s timekeeping on this track is refreshingly jazzy, and Deanna indulges her penchant for the atmospheric in the middle of the tune, briefly depressing the sustain pedal to lend a film noir dimension to the piece. In “Blues at 11,” another strong original, Deanna’s playing recalls Ray Bryant in its sophisticated sense of the blues, and at only two and a half minutes, her lyricism leaves the listener pining for more.

 

Her swinging interpretation of Willie Dixon’s “I Love the Life I Live” reflects the indelible stamp Mose Allison brought to the song when he recorded it in the 1960s. On this number she sounds at ease both in front of the microphone and at the keyboard, and she clearly seems to be enjoying herself. Following this she offers a straightforward rendition of Pete Johnson’s “Death Ray Boogie,” a joyful boogie notwithstanding its title.

 

The handful of pop songs Deanna performs on Pianoland are not nearly so satisfying. The title track’s driving pace and, at times, breathless vocals send it unpleasantly into melodrama, and it is redeemed only near the end by a strong solo and less affected singing. “Over the Rainbow” (yes, the Harold Arlen warhorse from the Wizard of Oz), “Couldn’t Love You More,” and “Close Your Eyes” suffer from unsophisticated melody lines and come off sounding sappy—a disappointment, given Deanna’s mighty talent.

 

The disc’s variety is simultaneously its strength and its weakness -- it keeps predictability at bay, but the repertoire is uneven. Deanna is a gifted pianist; perhaps a Pianoland Revisited is needed to do her justice.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Keros hosts two Chicagoland radio shows: Blues Edition (with Greg Freerksen) on WDCB 90.9 FM, airing Saturdays from 7 to 9 p.m., and Crossroads: Where Jazz Meets Blues on WHPK 88.5 FM, airing alternating Wednesdays from 7 to 9 p.m.

 

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