Rebecca DuMaine and the Dave Miller Combo

From the start of the opening selection on this CD, “When In Rome,” Rebecca DuMaine displays a beautiful tone, perfect articulation, a real understanding of the words she is singing, a friendly and inviting musical personality, superior placement of notes (which are always in tune), and a swinging style. What more could one ask for?

The daughter of pianist Dave Miller, Rebecca was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area. “I remember hearing George Shearing when I was a child because my Dad always played his records. I especially liked the singing of Peggy Lee, Nancy Wilson and Nat King Cole on his albums. As a teenager in the 1980s, while I listened to pop music, whenever I drove a car I would put on the jazz station because it reminded me of home.” She earned a degree in drama from Duke University, moved to New York City, and was an actress, working in commercials and touring with classical theater productions. She became very interested in teaching, earning a graduate degree at Rutgers.

Rebecca also rediscovered her love of singing. “I liked jazz singing much better than the musical theater style. I had a few gigs in New York including at the Rainbow Room, moved back to Northern California in 2010, and did some jazz workshops, studying with Kitty Margolis and Madeleine Eastman.” And most importantly, she began working with her father’s trio. “Growing up, I would see him play piano and it felt very normal. But after going away and coming back, I realized how unusual it was to have a Dad who was that talented, who could sit down and listen to anything and immediately play it. He has such dedication to the music.”

Dave Miller started playing piano when he was three, studied classical music, and has led a trio since the 1970s. He has long been a lover of the Shearing sound. “I particularly loved how George Shearing accompanied vocalists, but had not had that much experience in that setting until Rebecca came back. She has changed the whole orientation of how I play, and it’s been quite fun providing support for her. The thing that initially made the greatest impact on me when she started singing with us was her very clear and crisp articulation, and how on stage her professional acting creates an impression that captivates an audience. She gets into what the song is about and makes sure that it is understood. Since then, her musical side has really grown and she has been much more involved in the arrangements. In the last several years, the songs that we perform have become her own.” One can hear the singer’s growth and the consistent excellence of the trio on their four previous CDs: Deed I Do (2011), Better Than Anything (2013), The Consequence Of You (2015), and 2016’s Happy Madness.

For Chez Nous, Rebecca DuMaine is joined by the current Dave Miller Trio plus guest guitarist Brad Buethe on eight of the songs. Bill Belasco has been Dave’s regular drummer since the 1970s. Rebecca says, “Bill is always happy, smiling and very positive. He has a playful quality in his playing and often takes our music in some unexpected directions.” Bassist Bennett has a strong melodic sensibility and his timekeeping is impeccable. Guitarist Buethe adds to the rhythm section with his superior abilities as an improviser. Each of the musicians has a long list of credits with major jazz artists and is very much at home in this swinging setting.

Chez Nous begins with “When In Rome.” Rebecca says “I remember hearing one of my favorite vocalists, Blossom Dearie, sing this. It is a very playful song and has a compelling story about trying to rationalize pleasure.” In addition to the joyful melody statement, this rendition includes some excellent chordal piano and a bit of wordless vocalizing. Jobim’s “So Danco Samba,” which is the first recording of Rebecca singing in Portuguese, is happy and exhilarating with Dave’s accompaniment recalling George Shearing.

“I’ve Never Been In Love Before,” a hit from Guys And Dolls, is often played as a ballad. However this new version is taken at an infectious medium-tempo pace with the singer vocalizing in unison with her father’s piano part of the time. Far from a typical love song, “Everything I’ve Got Belongs to You” is also taken faster than usual and includes a brief but satisfying drum solo from Bill Belasco.

Of “Chez Moi,” Rebecca says, “I love singing in French and my Mom is a French teacher. I like the message of this song which is about wanting to find the one right person.” Rodgers and Hart’s “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” has been recorded a countless number of times since it was composed in 1939, but this is one of the few versions that include the verse which perfectly sets up the chorus. Dave, Brad and Chuck all have opportunities to solo.

The melody of “Tangerine” is described by Rebecca as “like a virtual glass of wine, very relaxing.” The swing era standard is given a light Latin feel, has soothing playing by the rhythm section, and is topped off with some creative singing during the closing vamp.

One of the highpoints of their live shows and each of their recordings is a piano/vocal duo. “Yesterday,” the ballad of the date, has quietly emotional interplay between father and daughter. While they were inspired by both the Frank Sinatra and Eliane Elias recordings of Warren and Dubin’s “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me,” Rebecca and Dave give the 1930s standard their own fresh treatment.

Grover Washington’s hit recording of “Just The Two Of Us” was one of the first songs that Rebecca heard when she started collecting music. Her version of the soul jazz classic is a bit nostalgic and includes fine guitar and piano solos. “Give Me The Simple Life,” which the singer describes as “asking the universe to bring things down to the simplistic essentials,” is taken as an optimistic swinger. The waltz “Alice In Wonderland” is transformed into 4/4 time which inspires inventive improvisations and joyous singing. The lesser-known Rodgers & Hart song “Do It The Hard Way” is about doing things right rather than fast and was partly inspired by Chet Baker’s version. The piano/drums tradeoffs and the wordless singing during the second vocal are added treats. The enjoyable set concludes with “Que Reste-t-il/I Wish You Love,” a cheerful closer that has singing in both French and English.

“This was our most relaxed recording,” says Dave. “We were able to go for it more and stretch the music.” “The overall tone of the CD” adds Rebecca, “is light, playful and engaging rather than being traditional love songs. We love discovering gems from the American songbook that are not overplayed and that we can make into something new.”

Throughout Chez Nous, Rebecca DuMaine, Dave Miller and their musicians succeed in reviving superior obscurities and giving a fresh twist to the more familiar standards. It is a delight from start to finish.

Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including The Jazz Singers, The Great Jazz Guitarists and Jazz On Record 1917-76