Sarah DeLeo’s debut CD, The Nearness of You, is filled with classics from the Great American Songbook. DeLeo has a distinct delivery and conjures images of Peggy Lee and Lena Horne. Sit back and let the disc spin and if you close your eyes you can feel the smoke from the jazz club settle in around you. You’ll hear the tink of half-filled glasses clanking together at the bar and the gentle murmuring of your fellow listeners around you. DeLeo puts forth the air of the 1950s New York supper club - a little understated but with great talent waiting to be allowed to burst forth.
DeLeo is daring with her choice of rhythms for her tracks. The Judy Garland ballad "If I Had You" has become a bossa nova which works amazingly well with the melody and lyrics. Lew Herman’s blues classic "(The Night Time is) The Right Time" finds DeLeo taking her time with the song’s pace. This gives the song a completely different and sexy feel to it; much different than Joe Williams’ classic recording. "It’s a Good Day," Peggy Lee’s classic, is given a proper treatment with DeLeo’s full-bodied voice. Starting out with a melancholy mood, the band picks up the tempo and turns the track into a cheery waltz. Brain Charette shows his skill on the blacks and whites with a solo over Mark Verdino’s walking bass before allowing DeLeo to return and conclude the song on an uplifting note.
Ned Washington and Hoagy Carmichael’s "The Nearness of You" give credit to the title track. DeLeo opens with her rendition of the song’s seldom-heard first verse accompanied only by Chris Bergson’s guitar. Together they segue with the rest of the rhythm section into the well-known melody. This is one of the best tracks on the CD and each performer is given a chance to shine. "Blackbirds," a contemporary song by Erin McKeown, is another highlight. DeLeo sings the tunes lyrics over beats sampled from Erykah Badu’s album Baduizm. Bouyed by Chuck MacKinnon’s trumpet, David Cook’s Fender Rhodes and Bergson’s guitar give this track a mysterious air.
There is a lot of talent in this young vocalist. With a few more years under her belt I really believe that Sarah DeLeo will be able to strike out onto the national scene. From beginning to end The Nearness of You is a winner and Sarah DeLeo’s silky voice will leave you wishing for another 48 minutes of her music.