This may or may not be the first jazz singer directly generated from the work of author Julia Cameron (The Artist's Way
), but Elaine Dame claims that soul-searching how-to book as her personal muse. The result is an artist who truly wants to sing, and has dug down to learn how to do it. Dame's first CD, a self-produced collection of standards, is very smooth and stylish. Every track is note-perfect. The songs themselves will all be familiar to any listener. Most are hoary chestnuts such as "If I Were a Bell" and "The Best is Yet to Come." The one surprise is an excellent interpretation of The Beatles' "Ticket to Ride."
Originally from the mid-western United States, Dame trained as an actress and came to jazz singing in Chicago only after years of boredom and frustration in Los Angeles. Not surprisingly, then, Dame has a touch of Broadway in her. But she's not really a belter; if anything, she prefers an intimate, personal style. Dame's mostly mid-range voice has a good feel for phrasing and pitching. She seems very comfortable with the material and shapes a song like she's been doing it for years. Although nothing on the CD is really outstanding, she doesn't have any bad moments, either. Basically, she is the type of singer you could find in a lot of clubs: a female vocalist who is dependable and enjoyable to listen to.
Interpretation is clearly her forte. Like the actor she is, Dame delivers the perfect twists and turns on every phrase, swinging from a whisper to a husky wail with confidence and panache. In some cases, she makes Cole Porter tunes sound like show tunes, but she doesn't overdo it. Dame also plays the flute, but that particular talent isn't featured on the album.
Unfortunately, while the CD itself is new, the recordings are not. They were apparently recorded some years ago, and therefore only serve as an intro to Dame for those who don't know her. Based in Chicago since 1993, she and the album are shy about mentioning other dates and timelines. The liner notes, written by radio host Neil Tesser, remark that as good as Dame is here, she has improved much since. But no matter most of us play catch up with artists anyway, and this CD is a fine place to start.