One of Chicago's favorite divas, Dee Alexander delivers strikingly on her debut studio recording as leader, Wild is the Wind. With a set list from a list of her heroes and mentors, "Light" Henry Huff, Malachi Thompson, Dinah Washington and Nina Simone, Ms. Alexander entertains the listener with her impressive vocal talents earned through years of hard work singing locally as well as internationally in a myriad of settings.
Alexander pays tribute to her mentor, Huff by starting off the album with a rousing version of his "Live," followed by a wonderful version of Malachi Thompson's (with whom she toured and recorded) "Surrender Your Love." Things slow down a bit on the powerful Dinah Washington cover, "This Bitter Earth." Pianist Mike Logan takes over during tracks 3, 4,5 and 6 for Alexanders usual pianist/musical director Miguel de la Cerna and both keyboardists rise to the occasion, providing their own individual brand of sensitive support for their singer. Of course, the rhythm is handled throughout by the first-rate team of bassist Harrison Bankhead and drummer Leon Joyce, Jr.
Alexander adds four originals to the mix. The swinging "C U on the Other Side" is an engaging ode to Huff, who died way too young at age 42. The swaying "Rossingnol" (French for nightingale) is always a crowd pleaser and shows Alexander's penchant for taking chances in her birdlike tweeting, cooing and chirping. Beautiful bird, indeed. Here, as on "Long Road Ahead," co-written by Bankhead, the band is joined by frequent Alexander collaborator, violinist James Sanders, who adds some tasty strings.
The churning "Butterfly" is especially close to Alexander's spirit of fun and personal growth. And a trio of songs associated with Nina Simone, that Dee often covers in concert, "Feeling Good," the title track and the showstopping "Four Women," should put both fans and non-fans alike over the top. It is clear that like the divas she emulates, Alexander was born to sing, and she keeps growing every time I hear her. This recording is an excellent testament to her talent and dedication, and I suspect we will be graced with many more years with beautiful songs from our Chicago rossignol.