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Lea Delaria, 'House of David: delaria + bowie = jazz,' Ghostlight Records (REVIEW)

By Mike Greenblatt m.greenblatt@classicalite.com on Jul 30, 2015 06:11 PM EDT

As Carrie "Big Boo" Black, the big butch dyke on Orange Is The New Black, Lea DeLaria, 57, commands respect. Her character has an inner wisdom sharpened by her prison environment. In real life, Lea was the first openly-gay comedian to break the late-night talk-show barrier when she appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1993. But did you know she was also a jazz vocalist? Her new CD, House Of David: delaria + bowie = jazz has a novel concept. She sings 12 Bowie classics like a nightclub singer backed by a lounge band. It almost works. The problem is I couldn't get the image of Bill Murray and his classic Saturday Night Live bad nightclub singer routine out of my head.

It's a tribute to David Bowie's melodicism that songs like "Boys Keep Swinging," "Modern Love," "Fame," "Space Oddity," "Golden Years," "Suffragette City," "Starman," "Rebel Rebel" and four more can be arranged as if she was singing "Feelings" or "My Way." There's no doubting that she can sing. Being earnest in performance, though, usually a good thing, goes against the grain of songs Bowie wrote with an acerbic wit. They clearly were not meant for such treatment. And once you get past the novelty, you'll be running back to your copies of Diamond Dogs and Ziggy Stardust.

Want my advice? Bowie fans who also dig female jazz vocalists could probably get behind this (as weird as it is) and to boost its pleasures, make sure to forget the songs I already listed and listen to all 12, letting the shock of recognition hit you. In some songs, it's instantaneous, other songs take a bar or a measure or two to make themselves known. That's the fun.

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TagsOrange is the New Black, Lea Delaria, David Bowie, REVIEW