Dee Daniels was born and raised in Berkeley, Calif., sang in Seattle for a decade and honed her craft in Europe for five years after that. But she had to move to Vancouver, B. C., to become a star...
Dee Daniels was born and raised in Berkeley, Calif., sang in Seattle for a decade and honed her craft in Europe for five years after that.
But she had to move to Vancouver, B.C., to become a star.
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Two years ago, Daniels was inducted into B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame Starwalk on Granville Street.
“It’s down near the Orpheum Theatre,” said the lanky, likable vocalist of her prestigious sidewalk plaque. “Sometimes the places where you’ve lived, I don’t know what the deal is, it’s harder for them to bite.”
Daniels performs in Center House at Seattle Center tonight as part of “Seattle’s Best Jazz,” an annual Winterfest program. The Garfield High School Jazz Band anchors this free holiday affair, with Daniels doing a few turns, as well as “American Idol” contestant (and Garfield senior) Leah LaBelle, saxophonist Bill Ramsay and vocalist Reggie Watts.
Though she grew up playing organ in her stepfather’s church, Daniels moved to Seattle in 1971 to teach art. She was recruited into the soul group Dynamite the following year and by 1980 could be heard singing gospel-inflected jazz vocals at Parnell’s and, later, at the Kool and Port Townsend jazz festivals.
Daniels’ rich, full voice, warm smile, four-octave range and churchy inflections won her a local following, but she moved to Europe in 1982, seeking steadier work. For the next five years, she lived in Belgium and the Netherlands, then settled in Vancouver, B.C., with her Canadian husband.
Since then, Daniels has made four albums, the most recent being the exuberant “Feels So Good,” recorded in New York with saxophonist Houston Person, piano accompanist extraordinaire Norman Simmons, veteran trombonist Benny Powell and bassist John Clayton. Her most ambitious disc to date, “Feels So Good” features a compelling version of “April in Paris” and a sizzling original, “Love Ain’t Love Without You.”
Though Daniels has never broken into the top tier of U.S. clubs or snagged an American label, she has a healthy career. She is a fixture at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, tours regularly in North America and Europe and has developed two pops shows for symphony orchestras. Not surprisingly, her singing is more supple and sophisticated than it was when she lived here.
“I just came home from a three-week tour of Europe,” said the singer by phone. “While I was there, I recorded a live DVD that’s going to be released first in Europe, sometime in the spring.”
Daniels used a holiday metaphor to explain the difference between European and American attitudes toward jazz.
“It’s like a kid who has a Christmas toy,” she said. “His parents bought it for him and he played with it for a couple of weeks, then he put it away, because he has lots of other toys. Then you have Europe, and they don’t have that toy, so they really appreciate it, they are attentive to it.”
At Winterfest, Daniels performs three Christmas charts by Seattleite and ex-Charles Mingus arranger Bob Hammer: “O Holy Night,” “Joyful, Joyful” (from “Sister Act 2”) and “The Christmas Song.”
Daniels has put down deep roots in Canada. She and her husband recently endowed a scholarship in her name at Capilano College. Two years ago, the premier of British Columbia nominated her for and she received the commemorative medal of the Golden Jubilee for Her Majesty the Queen.
Daniels also is passing on her legacy through private vocal students. One of them, Emma Love, won the Lionel Hampton vocal competition last year and knocked everyone out at Port Townsend, as well.
After all these years, does Daniels ever miss the Emerald City?
“I used, to for a long time,” she answered. “I still miss Nordstrom!”
It’s homecoming season for Seattle college jazzers, too. Saxophonist and Garfield alum Ben Roseth plays Thursday with trumpeter and ex-classmate Tatum Greenblatt, drummer and Roosevelt grad Sean Hutchinson and others at the Triple Door ($12; 206-838-4333).
Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247