Even though the title of this album – From the Heart & Soul – by the late and incomparable Dianne Brooks is a dead giveaway, nothing can prepare the unsuspecting listener from the vocalist’s tautly sinuous and driven propulsion of her musicianship, which is by turns, gritty, rapturously lyrical, sparkling and luscious.
The musical cognoscenti will no doubt be amazed as well, but a little less surprised by the majesty of her vocalastics. Miss Brooks was, after all, known for spinning and swinging music with Count Basie, Billy Eckstein, Thad Jones, Al Hirt, Mama Cass, Natalie Cole and a slew of other celebrated musicians. But this Andrew Melzer production puts a spotlight on her craft in a very special way. He records her alone and in various settings to bask in the spotlight that she most rightfully owned in the short time that she was alive and dazzling audiences with the power and poetry of her voice.
From the Heart & Soul may be a short album [just less than half an hour] by today’s standards largely due to the ability to cram a lot of music onto an optical disc. But in choosing a shorter repertoire, Mr Melzer puts the focus on the vocalist’s greatest strengths: the muscularity of her voice and its lyricism. Featuring beautifully crafted arrangements of considerable sensuousness in every lovingly caressed phrase, Miss Brooks love for song shines brightly. She delivers her most power, gospel-soaked interpretation of “I’m Carrying” with beguiling timbre.
The chosen repertoire, with one or two notable exceptions, judiciously focuses on original songs [one of which Mr Melzer co-composed with Miss Brooks], as well as a couple of lesser-known gems from other celebrated composers. Listening to the way in which Miss Brooks seductively bends and moulds the notes in Victor Feldman’s “Give Me One More Chance” and Mr Melzer’s “All I Need is You”, and how she swings and sculpts the inventions of George Gershwin and his brother Ira Gershwin’s “But Not for Me”, it’s clear that there’s not a single semiquaver that has not been fastidiously considered.
Notable among all of the ensembles that back Miss Brooks is the group that includes keyboardist Don Grusin and guitarist Al Ciner on the first three tracks, another group with the remarkable Brasilian drummer Claudio Slon, and the last three tracks which feature the legendary Toronto pianist Doug Riley and bassist Tom Szczesniak together. Meanwhile, Miss Brooks’ regular bassist Paul Stallworth provides a towering wall of sound on the rest of the repertoire. This is a gem of a recording.
Track list – 1: Trying to Get to You; 2: Give Me One More Chance; 3: I’m Carrying; 4: Can’t Get Enough of You; 5: All I Need is You; 6: Out Love is Here to Stay; 7: Venice Breeze; 8: But Not for Me
Personnel – Dianne Brooks: vocals; Don Grusin: keyboards [1 – 3]; Al Ciner: guitar [1 – 3]; Paul Stallworth: bass; Joe Carrero: drums [1 – 3]; Jack Lee: keyboards  and piano ; Rob Walsh: guitar ; Claudio Slon: drums ; Chris Corrigan: guitar ; Doug Riley: piano [6 – 8]; Bob McLaren: drums [6 – 8]
Released – 2021
Label – Panda Digital
Runtime – 27:21