let's face the music & dance

Donna Byrne
Stash ST-CD-579

All Music Guide
Dave Nathan


Donna Byrne's second album as a soloist further establishes her as one of today's more accomplished (if underrecognized) jazz singers. Joined by a congregation of all-star musicians, Byrne runs through 13 standards, adding to each her unique musical imprimatur.

The album's kickoff tune, the mile-a-minute What a Little Moonlight Can Do, features guitarist Gray Sargent, who is also prominent on Dream Dancing. One of the session's highlights is the "Time" medley -- I Didn't Know What Times It Was and Too Late Now. Byrne likes to start off a song with an unhurried a cappella rendition of the verse, segueing into a medium-paced tempo, like on "I Didn't Know What Time It Was, which features excellent support from master pianist Dave McKenna. A contrast to this medley is a plaintive, sad Too Late Now, with Sargent's contemplative guitar ruminating behind Byrne. "Blame It On My Youth reveals the influence of Mabel Mercer on Byrne's style. A phenomenal arrangement of Limehouse Blues is a highlight of the album. It starts off with Marshall Woods' bass providing just the right, sensuous background for Byrne's slow, slinky first chorus. McKenna and Sargent come in to pick up the pace; the alto sax of Dick Johnson takes over with Byrne; finally, Johnson solos and then supports another patented Byrne solo for a rousing six-minute conclusion to this exciting and entertaining arrangement of the 1924 warhorse.

Herb Pomeroy is heard on just a few cuts, but his flügelhorn comes to the fore on I Remember You, sharing the solo spotlight with Johnson. Byrne and McKenna duet on Something to Remember You By, avoiding the saccharine interpretation usually given this 1930 hit. The title tune once again hooks up Byrne and Woods' bass, with Jim Gwin's drums keeping time without being intrusive; Pomeroy and Sargent get plenty of solo space here. It's quite evident by the enthusiasm shown by each musician that all are having a very good time. Graced with excellent diction, a unique and very entertaining approach to lyrics, and a clear, crystalline, jazzy voice, Donna Byrne is a talented singer, and should be far better known than she is now.
AMG Rating: 4 stars

Jersey Jazz
October, 1994
Dick Neeld

let's face the music & dance

Donna Byrne has everything a good singer needs, and she knows how to make the best use of it. For proof, this album reveals all. She has all the essentials: the voice, the control, the comprehension. What puts her in the top rank are such subjective elements as temperament and savvy. She has a good sense of when to call on the various qualities of her voice and delivery to carry best the message of the song.
This CD is especially appealing because her perceptive performances are supported by superior musicianship in several settings. There are tracks exclusively with Dave McKenna's noted piano accompaniment. Many of them have the important addition of Marshall Wood's bass and Jim Gwin on drums. And then there's Gray Sargent's guitar, absorbing whether playing tight accompaniment, soloing, or tangling with McKenna. Other tracks add the alto sax of Dick Johnson, known best in recent years for leading the Artie Shaw Orchestra and, in beautiful form, Herb Pomeroy putting all his experience to work on his flugelhorn. Collectively they make the best company a singer could ever want, and they're given plenty of room to show what they can do.

Listening to Ms. Byrne's singing, there's no question but that she appreciates and enjoys the company she's keeping. The songs are well chosen, with some choice verses included. They address various moods, and she makes the most of each. She travels comfortably through a wide vocal range, and in tempo and mood as well. Her abilities show best on the slow, contemplative ballads where the beauty of her full voice is most evident, delivered with phrasing and inflection that extract all the meaning from the lyrics. Especially effective are such choice songs as Cole Porter's Dream Dancing and Edward Heyman and Oscar Levant's Blame It On My Youth. And check out those two medleys.

All those good things -- the songs, the musicians -- help to make a good album better. But the singer is the thing. And Donna Byrne has an enthusiasm for life, very evident here, that takes her through a steady string of winning tracks.

CAB Magazine
June 1994
Robert M. Goodman

let's face the music & dance

Boston-based jazz singer Donna Byrne has released her second recording and this will, without a doubt, make a name that will recognize her extraordinary talents both nationally and internationally -- and not just on of Beantown's best-kept secrets!

Supported by some great jazz musicians, the legendary Dave McKenna on piano, Marshall Wood on bass, Herb Pomeroy on flugelhorn, guitarist Gray Sargent, Dick Johnson on alto sax, and drummer Jim Gwin, Ms. Byrne has a simple and direct way of approaching a song that works very well in her favor. And her taste in music is exceptionally fine: from What A Little Moonlight Can Do through Dream Dancing to For All We Know, right down through The Lonesome Road, Ms. Byrne weaves a magic spell.

On the album are two medleys artfully put together by Ms. Byrne: Johnny Mercer's I Remember You and Dietz and Schwartz's Something To Remember You By is heart wrenching. The second, a "Time" medley counterpoints Rodgers and Hart's I Didn't Know What Time It Was with Too Late Now. All in all, Let's Face The Music And Dance is a musical treat by a singer whose time has come.

Jazz Times
September, 1994


Great tunes sung with great style and phrasing are the hallmarks of this collection, 13 selections from the best of American composers. The settings range from voice and piano duo (Dave McKenna's genius on Blame It On My Youth) to a full sextet for Cole Porter's Dream Dancing.

The interplay between McKenna and guitarist Gray Sargent is exceptional, the full band enriched by clarinetist Dick Johnson, flugelhornist Herb Pomeroy, bassist Marshall Wood, and drummer Jim Gwin.