Ranee Lee – Dark Divas
(Justin Time – 2000)
by Carmen Miller
Dark Divas is Ranee Lee’s seventh album for the Montreal-based Justin Time Records. It is also a stage show that Ranee wrote and performs, where she alternates between singing renditions of tunes made famous by some of the Divas of Jazz, and speaking briefly to the audience as though she were those ladies.
During her stage performance Ranee tries to capture the essence of those songbirds through certain idiosyncrasies and mannerisms unique to each songstress; Billy Holiday’s husky drawl, Lena Horne’s sophisticated southern feel, Josephine Baker’s pseudo-french accent. She covers some of my favorites on this CD, and that’s always a plus in my book. Tunes like Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘A Tisket, A Tasket’, Dinah Washington’s ‘Makin Whoopie’ and Josephine Baker’s theme song, ‘J’ai Deux Amores’ are immortal and will always sound good if performed by a decent talent, but Ranee is better than just decent. Her performance does not simply imitate her chosen Divas, rather she tries to deliver the music in her own style while keeping the feel that made that particular song so enduring.
Throughout the CD her delivery is good and very stylized, and the music accompaniment is well done, making this album a nice listen on the whole, but I suspect that something is lost without the rest of the stage performance and dialogue to tie it all together. There is a 2-CD version of this release that includes dialogue and music…that’s probably the one to buy.