it was 1999, I think, when Wilber Morris told me about a singer he had encountered who had impressed him to the point that he suggested she contact me. It was not until 5 years later that I finally heard Devorah Day (1958; Glacier, MT), the occasion being the release of her (1998) recording on Abaton Records. I was, as Wilber expected, impressed by both the distinctiveness and originality of her delivery. When I mentioned Wilber's comments, Devorah had no recollection of even encountering Wilber.
Dominic Duval (1944; NYC, NY) first played with Devorah in 1989, but then not again until earlier this month—almost 15 years later. It was this most recent gig and its rehearsals that ignited his enthusiasm and which, in turn,brought about this date.
In listening to Devorah, a number of things in background and style suggest themselves to me. My guess is, she came to singing from a non-specific idiomatic perspective and, yet, influences are suggested in her style. Abbey Lincoln, Billie Holiday, and Jay Clayton come to mind.
I'm not sure how a Jazz singer is specifically defined, but I think even a cursory listen to Devorah Day's work suggests this is unarguably a Jazz singer and unquestionably a creative improvising vocalist.
The first evening's work was unusual. We didn't get underway till a bit before 10 p.m., and, while the temperature outside rose 10 degrees between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., Devorah—shoeless and sockless—complained of upper torso cold and, by 12:30 a.m., was singing while wrapped in 2 sweaters.
Throughout the evening, flashes of lightning—unusual for mid October—illuminated the outside. The thunder and rain arrived sometime during the various takes of Good Morning Heartache. Strange occurrences. In fact, on the issued take of Heartache, you might be able to hear a distant beep from an electrical power monitor. The rains let loose on Just One of Those Things. It was now 2a.m. and the session was becoming almost surreal.
The rains stopped and Devorah and Dominic decided to interpret Yesterday, a song Devorah said she had never sung before. Just as we were about to record, Marc and I clearly heard a buzzing. Marc thought electrical/mechanical; I, the constant Luddite, said it sounded like a fly. Marc agreed, thinking perhaps one had flown close to the mic. As we were about to start again, the buzz reappeared and suggested perhaps it had flown into the mic housing. Marc went to look and—lo and behold—indeed a fly was on the housing. By this time the duo wassinging in unison the theme from "The Beverly Hillbillies." Fly removed (with a quick flick), Yesterday addressed, take completed. Artistry, like flies, can be unpredictable in its appearance.
More visits to television theme songs followed. Dominic and Devorah then launched into Four Dees, animprov with Villa Lobian tones on what is in effect an instrumental duo.
The bulk of what we set out to do accomplished, we called it a night a bit before 3 a.m.
The next day we began a bit before noon, opening with Devorah's Come Closer followed in short order by When Sunny Gets Blue and "Bellismo Mio," the latter improvised on the spot. We ended with Ain't Misbehavin', unplanned and ad libbed.
Throughout the session over the 2 days, a degree of anxious suspension was in the air. Devorah's artistry is enigmatic. It challenges and often leaves as many questions as it resolves. Notyour average listening experience—challenging for the singer and the listener and, in this case, the bass player who had to be on his toes throughout, not just to support but to anticipate as well, ready to sprint on a moment's notice. Original paths take greater effort to navigate and offer rewards rarely fully appreciated on the first pass. This is quite a trip.
Robert D. Rusch - October 21, 2003