Dena DeRose

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Dena DeRose overcame a debilitating physical illness to become a significant force in jazz as both a pianist and a singer. She brings a modern-jazz hipness to the American standard repertoire, and approaches virtually everything she plays with a “swing first” mentality. By the time she released 1996′s Introducing Dena DeRose for Sharp Nine Records, her leader debut, she had already faced down the twin blows of rheumatoid arthritis and carpel tunnel syndrome, which threatened to end her career. While recovering from corrective surgery she was dared to sing in a club. A few weeks after taking that dare, she was touring as a vocalist. For 2002′s acclaimed Love's Holiday, the last of her leader dates for the label, she enlisted heavy weights such as pianist Bill Charlap, vibraphonist Joe Locke, and trumpeters Jim Rotondi and Brian Lynch to expand the sonic reach of her trio. Three years later she produced her own Grammy-nominated Max Jazz debut, A Walk in the Park. Two years later she issued three albums in a single year including the first of three best-selling Live at the Jazz Standard volumes with her trio — with bassist Martin Wind and drummer Matt Jones — the second volume spent 12 weeks on the jazz charts. Her 2014 High Note debut, We Won't Forget You: An Homage to Shirley Horn, added an all-star horn section to the trio and made numerous critics’ year-end lists; some drew favorable comparisons between DeRose and her subject. 2016′s United was widely celebrated for its title track original, as well as the inclusion of guest trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and guitarist Peter Bernstein.
DeRose began playing piano when she was three and, in addition to her piano lessons, she studied classical organ and percussion. In school. She played in the orchestra, the marching band, and the jazz band, and accompanied musicals. She took classes in classical piano at SUNY Binghamton and worked as a jazz pianist in upstate New York. But in the mid-’80s she was struck with a combination of arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome that greatly affected her right hand. She had two operations and was unable to play piano at all for two years. It looked as if her musical career was over before it had really begun. But one night while in a jazz club with some friends, she took a dare to sing. DeRose did well and enjoyed the experience so much that within a few weeks she was booking herself as a singer. By the time she was becoming well known as a jazz vocalist, her hand had completely recovered, and she became a singer/pianist. In 1991, DeRose moved to New York City, where she began working the club circuit. Since then, she has also become a busy music educator, but appears regularly at jazz festivals. In addition to leading her own trio, DeRose has worked with such major names as Randy Brecker, Bruce Forman, Ray Brown, Clark Terry, Benny Golson, Houston Person, and Ken Peplowski. As a solo artist, DeRose made her debut in 1996 with Introducing Dena DeRose on Sharp Nine Records, followed by 1999′s Another World, 2001′s I Can See Clearly Now, and 2002′s Love's Holiday. DeRose next moved to MaxJazz for several well-received albums, including 2005′s A Walk in the Park and 2012′s Travelin' Light. She then paid tribute to one of her idols, legendary pianist/vocalist Shirley Horn, with 2014′s We Won't Forget You: An Homage to Shirley Horn on HighNote Records. In 2016, DeRose released her eighth studio album, United, featuring guest appearances from longtime associates trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and guitarist Peter Bernstein.
Two years later, DeRose served as pianist in tenorist Scott Hamilton’s quartet on La Rosita, and in 2019 stretched her own boundaries on Alpenglow in Copenhagen serving as pianist in an avant improvising trio with bassist Mads Vindig and improvising vocalist Annette Giesriegl. In 2020, DeRose returned as a bandleader for High Note with Ode to the Road. The set featured her trio with guest trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, saxophonist Houston Person, and vocalist Sheila Jordan on select cuts. ~ Scott Yanow & Thom Jurek