The influx of lounge jazz back into the music scene in the past few years is generally regarded as a good thing, but there are too many examples of it being done poorly. Toronto’s Delilah, a transplant from Hungary, is an example of modern lounge jazz done right with her smooth delivery and great key composition. Her new EP, Delilah Sings Sarah +1 is a tribute to Sarah Vaughan, the American jazz legend who died in 1990 and helped define the smooth jazz genre for the modern era.
Delilah and her family are originally from Bucharest, Hungary, and are part of a long tradition of performing Roma musicians. The young singer displayed her birthright gift for music early on with her amazing singing voice, and she was soon performing alongside her family in a huge musical troop led by Bango Margit, the legendary Roma folk singer.
In 1998 at the age of 19, Delilah’s family emigrated from Hungary due to racial discrimination and the political hostility towards the Romani. They chose Toronto for their new home, and it was there that the already seasoned performer fell in love with smooth lounge jazz and Sarah Vaughn. Vaughn originated such lounge classics as What More Can a Woman Do? I’m in the Mood for Love and S’Wonderful. Despite her classic Eastern European and gypsy training, the singer soon assimilated into the jazz scene in Toronto and was quickly seen as a formidable talent.
Delilah released three full-length albums before Delilah Sings Sarah +1, with each focusing on a specific musical theme. Unsurprisingly her first album was called Jazz and featured her smooth, smoky voice singing many jazz classics like My Funny Valentine and Cry Me a River. In her second album, the jazz singer honors her roots with Gypsy Love, an album in which she splices jazz standards with a number of traditional Romani songs. The contrast of traditions is quite interesting, but listeners can also hear how in some cases jazz and traditional Eastern European folk can intersect. Sweeterlife goes back to jazz but with the added sub-theme of the songs which make the singer happy and appreciative of her current life.
Sarah Vaughan released possibly her most popular album in 1962 called Sarah +2 which featured only her vocals and two accompaniments, a guitar and a double bass. Delilah’s reasons for naming this EP Delilah Sings Sarah +1 were slightly different, but the play on the original album name is apparent. In this compilation, the singer does covers of her favorite Sarah Vaughan songs: September in the Rain, Whatever Lola Wants and Just Friends. The “+1” refers to an extra song Delilah has included in the EP, the George Turner and Jeffrey Parsons classic, Smile.
The vocals on each track on Delilah Sings Sarah +1 are perfectly balanced between good classic technique and the smoky, emotive quality which is endemic in smooth, 40s-style jazz and blues. Smile is definitely the highlight this talented vocalist hoped it would be. In this song her vocals take on a lighter, less smoky and sexy timbre while her accompanying musicians delicately carry her mellifluous voice. The more positive and light-hearted tone of the vocals on this song show not only her range but her desire to put the proper spin on every song she chooses to perform.
Delilah represents a crop of modern jazz purists who seek to keep walking the path blazed by artists like Sarah Vaughan. This tribute to the legendary jazz singer shows her commitment to upholding the jazz standards set down by her forbears while also letting her own natural talent and lounge jazz grace shine through. Delilah Sings Sarah +1 is available on iTunes along with the rest of the discography releases, or via her website. Links are listed below in “Sources.”
Review by Layla Klamt