By Mandi Kimes
Hungarian-turned-Canadian jazz singer Delilah, who has a history of many years of performing under her belt, has just released a four-song EP of covers attributed to Sarah Vaughan, called “Delilah Sings Sarah + 1”. As a classically-trained jazz singer myself, I found this album enjoyable to listen to (well, the vocals anyway) and found the motivation I needed to continue my love of jazz music, appreciation and history.
The album begins with “September in the Rain,” a classic tune published in 1937 by Harry Warren and Al Dublin and debuted by James Melton in the film Melody for Two. With artists of many genres covering the song - from the Beatles’ 1962 Decca audition to Willie Nelson to Norah Jones - Delilah is of course channeling Vaughan’s version. With Delilah’s version, almost immediately you can tell the “orchestra” used in the song is all done by using that synth pad on a keyboard. This album would be more authentic if they had used a real orchestra in place of its fake sound. That aside, Delilah’s voice resonates as a true jazz singer: alto, raspy with subtle head-space, and the nasal inflections on certain syllables to give the songs its jazzy, brassy sound.
“Just Friends” slows things down a bit. Written by John Klenner and Sam M. Lewis in 1931, the song became a jazz standard when introduced by Red McKenzie and his orchestra, then later made popular in 1932 by Russ Columbo and again by Ben Selvin. The traditional jazz rhythm section - drums, standup bass, and piano - carry Delilah’s voice through the entire ballad. She sings “Just friends, lovers no more // Just friends, but not like before” and it adds to the somber intensity in her voice.
“Whatever Lola Wants,” a samba written by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, debuted in the 1955 play Damn Yankees. The devil’s assistant, Lola, sings the tune as she channels Irish-born Spanish dancer Lola Montez, who later become a San Franciscan gold rush vamp and mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. In Delilah’s attempt at a Spanish samba, she channels her sultry side as she lures the listener into her spell. The brass portion of the song, which should be the predominant instrument aside from the singer, is distracting as it blares more abruptly, instead of playing as a an entrancing tool to assist Delilah’s plea.
The album ends with one of my favorite jazz standards of all-time, “Smile.” Originally written as an instrumental piece by Charlie Chaplin in his 1936 film Modern Times, it was later adapted to a lyrical song in 1954 by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons, in which Nat King Cole made popular. Widely covered by most jazz and theatre performers, the song details the narrator consoling the listener with its hopeful lyrics: “Smile, though your heart is aching // Smile, even though it’s breaking // When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by // When you smile through your fears and sorrows // Smile, and maybe tomorrow // You’ll find that life is still worthwhile for you // Light up your face with gladness // Hide every trace of sadness // Although a tear may be ever so near // That’s the time you must keep on trying // Smile; what’s the use in crying? // You’ll find that life is still worthwhile // For you’ll just smile.” Delilah paints a beautiful picture of a better tomorrow with this version. Again, if the instruments would remain as organic as her voice, this record would be perfect for me. However, the strings on this track blend well with the piano and voice, while the brass and woodwinds push too hard.