This is probably one of the more challenging albums that I have reviewed merely because of its greatness. Last year, a friend from New York sent me a copy of Darius de Haas’ solo release “Day Dream – Variations On Strayhorn“. When I picked it up from the post office, I immediately played it in the car and have been enjoying it immensely ever since. Thanks John!!! Now making this even more interesting, about a month later, some friends were visiting and saw the CD and asked where did I get it since it was not a widely publicized release. We discussed how wonderful the album is and I also learned that Darius also sang on the “Dreamgirls in Concert” album which I recently purchased.
Darius grew up in my hometown of Chicago. His parents are quite accomplished in music as well. His father, Eddie de Haas, performed with Miles Davis, Chet Baker and Blossom Dearie. His mother, singer Geraldine Bey, was best known for her work with the highly regarded 60’s vocal trio, Andy and the Bey Sisters. Jazz singer-pianist Andy Bey is his uncle. Darius is widely known in the New York theatre scene appearing in the Broadway productions of “Kiss of the Spider Woman“, “Carousel“, “Rent“, and “Marie Christine.” The inspiration for doing this solo project of Billy Strayhorn’s music came from a desire to showcase the work of a composer who people should know better. From the times that I have sung “Lush Life” in the shower and heard other Strayhorn compositions, I know that his music is very challenging but beautiful.
Darius breathes new life into these classic and timeless Strayhorn works. He gives excellent treatment to popular Strayhorn favorites “Satin Doll“, “Take the ‘A’ Train” and “Just A-Sittin’ and A-Rockin’.” His vocals are jazzy, soulful, and playful on these songs. “Your Love Has Faded” is melancholy even though it tells the story of a romance that has lost its shine. The intertwining for “Passion Flower” and “A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing” is warm and passionate. Billy Strayhorn wrote “Lush Life” when he was in his teens and I first heard it on a Donna Summer album when I was in my teens. Over the years, I have heard many wonderful renditions of this song but none compare to what Darius brings to this song. Roy Nathanson’s percussive sax intros and accompanies Darius’ brilliant tenor vocals. You feel the poignancy of the song’s sad lyrics in the still quiet. “My Love Is as a Fever” and “Takes All My Loves” are Strayhorn/Ellington compositions from the Duke Ellington album “Such Sweet Thunder” which paid tribute to William Shakespeare. My favorites are Darius’ handling of “My Flame Burns Blue” as it gently winds into “Day Dream” and I also enjoyed the powerful reading of “Something to Live For” for it illustrates the complexity and beauty of Strayhorn’s music and life.” Darius is backed by masterful musicians Deirdre Rodman on piano, Brad Jones on bass, J.T. Lewis on drums, Roy Nathanson on saxophone, and Marvin Sewell on guitar and a host of orchestration. This album celebrates the work of one of the great composers of our time performed by one of a new generation of great vocalists. Congratulations Darius on your outstanding album and continued success to you.