D.J. Sweeney Quartet
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D.J. Sweeney Quartet

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D.J. Sweeney is a fine singer who has a straightforward delivery, swings lightly, and mostly sticks to the words and melody of the songs that she interprets. She was in Los Angeles for a time but has since relocated to Kansas City. For her self-titled debut, she is joined by a top-notch quartet that includes guitarist Danny Embrey and pianist Paul Smith. Sweeney adds joy and life to a variety of older standards including “I’m Gonna Lock My Heart And Throw Away The Key,” “You Turned The Tables On Me” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” Other than “My Love Is,” all of the songs are at least several decades old but she makes them sound relevant, fairly modern and fun. The music is never complex or complicated, so a long analysis is unnecessary. Simply put, D.J. Sweeney sings some of her favorite songs in a likable and accessible fashion while joined by some of Kansas City’s top musicians. The only fault to this set (which is available from cdbaby.com) is its brief length (around 36 minutes) but it is easy to enjoy and a strong debut effort. Scott Yanow

- LA Jazz Review 2006

This is DJ Sweeney's debut recording, an LP-length collection of swingers, standards, and blues, backed expertly by Danny Embrey, Paul Smith, Craig Akin, and Tim Cambron. Having this crew is usually a guarantee that the jazz will be good, and that is the case here as each are allowed ample solo space throughout. Listeners familiar with this rhythm section already know what to expect-they are among the finest players in the area, and they are near the top of their straight-ahead game on these nine cuts.

Sweeney has a very smooth, natural sounding voice, never trying to over-embellish. She seems to allow the music to carry the day, rather than just be a showcase for her vocal talents.

The delivery and groove on "Im Gonna Lock My Heart and Throw Away the Key" is reminiscent of an Etta Jones outing. DJ is soulful like Etta, and swings right along with the band. The exchange of fours is a good introduction of what Danny, Paul, Craig, and Tim add.

The blues "My Love Is" has Smith over in the organ chair and he provides the solo and color for DJ here. "Tables" is sung simply, you can tell that the turning of the tables was no real surprise well before she admits that was truly the case. Paul (back at the Piano) and Craig each get a solo turn here. "Small Day Tomorrow" is a Bob Dorough tune, and Sweeney seems maybe a little sad that her life flies under the radar. There is a lot of help underneath from the rhythm section on this track. Get the picture? Successful song stylists tell a story and they "act" with their inflections and phrasing. and DJ takes this approach.

There are two "Kiss" songs here, both less frequently performed standards. An uncredited harmonica - no, that's Danny using the synth on his guitar - adds much to " A Kiss to Build a Dream On" (Louis Armstrong's version in "Sleepless in Seattle," if you need a reminding point of reference). You could picture "Knock Me a Kiss" as a Nat Cole trio-plus-drums vehicle...and it was, from his MacGregor Transcription recordings.

"You'd Be So Nice" shows that DJ can navigate a fast flag waver of a swinger; and so can Smith and Cambron in their exchange of fours.

"I Can't Give You Anything" is the closer, and is pure balladry - or is it? DJ opens in duo with Paul's piano and you think it is, then after a chorus it turns into an easy finger-snapping four-four. Embrey and Akin solo before DJ takes it out.

After the initial listen, a family member mentioned that they would enjoy hearing DJ Sweeney sing live. I suspect that other listeners will have a similar reaction; The songs are enjoyable, and the presentations here only enhance them. The set selection would work well in a club - the pacing keeps the listener involved. A successful outing for DJ Sweeney.

-Roger Atkinson

Editor of JAM Magazine

- JAM Magazine 2006

Vocalist DJ Sweeney’s quote on myspace.com sums it up, “I love jazz more than anything!” This waitress cum jazz singer hit the ground running last August when she debuted her self-titled CD at Jardine’s Jazz Club. Since then, she has steadily picked up her performance pace, gigging at 12 Baltimore, The Melting Pot, The Peachtree Restaurant, and others. Her repertoire of standards done in a classic style that should delight traditional straight-ahead jazz fans. “Standards are timeless. They’re beautiful and people love them now and will love them when I’m seventy. I’m going for longevity here,” Sweeney laughs.

You’re only as good as your band in this business, and Sweeney has picked the best. On her CD, Danny Embrey sits in the producer and guitarist chairs. Paul Smith tackles keys and Tim Cambron hits the skins. Rounding out the backing band is Craig Akin on bass. This solid group of musicians provides a great backdrop for Sweeney’s smooth alto vocal stylings. With influences ranging from Sarah Vaughn to Gladys Knight, her balladry takes on a bit of sauciness, but more class, just the way she likes it.

Story by Rachel Murphy.

- Present Magazine

Personnel: D. J. Sweeney, vocals; Danny Embrey,
guitar and guitar synthesizer; Paul Smith, piano; James
Albright, bass; Tim Cambron, drums; Clint Ashlock,
trumpet on “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But the Blues”
Tracks: Are You the One?, Teach Me Tonight, The
Meaning of the Blues, Sweet Georgia Brown, I Only
Want Some, I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But the Blues, What
Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?, The Lady’s In
Love With You, But Beautiful, Isn’t This a Lovely
Day?, Old Devil Moon.
Recorded at Markosa Studios, Mark Thies, Engineer.
This is D. J. Sweeney’s second outing, and on it
you can hear her growth as a singer, showing comfort with
her material on an ambitious program of standards. While
not everything works here, much does, resulting in a pretty satisfying set.

The slow opening between Danny and D.J. on
the title track has you thinking ballad, but then the
band comes in and it turns out to be a swinger with
fine extended solos from the whole band, who are all
given a tremendous amount of solo space throughout
the session. D.J. puts many of her tricks on display
here – a little attitude, some bent notes, generally near
the beat, and with nary a bit of vibrato. Her voice is a
bit softer on “Teach Me Tonight”, an easy swinger with,
of course, exemplary solo support from the band.
Embrey’s guitar synth opens “Meaning of the Blues”,
and Sweeney is fine indeed. There are some tough intervals
on this one, and she navigates every one, and captures
its emotion as well. Danny’s guitar synth and a bowed
solo from Tim Albright are featured before D.J. returns
for another chorus. “Sweet Georgia Brown” has worn out
its welcome on these ears, but it is followed by a strong
“I Only Want Some”, with the guitar synth sounding
like a Hammond B-3. This rocker is a highlight of the
set. Check out the Cambron shuffle on this cut. D.J.’s
tendency to fade off a note at the end of a phrase doesn’t
always work, but it sure does here.
Opening “I Ain’t Got Nothin’” with just her voice
and the Cambron brushes took some guts; the voice is
naked without another tone in the air. It didn’t seem to
bother D.J. any, and she pulls it off. Clint Ashlock joins
on this track and has the obbligato behind Sweeney and
a nice solo. Embrey is strong as well. You’ll pick up
a couple of clichés on this tune, like on several others
– Ashlock entering on the word “trumpet” was a little
too cute, for example. (There are other “cute” plays on
other tunes that I could have done without, too).
But then she follows with “What Are You Doing
the Rest of Your Life?”, not an easy song and with a
difficult opening phrase that she nails. She pushes and
pulls the tempo to nice effect as well. Paul Smith’s entry
following Danny’s brief solo is, well, pure Paul, taking
the handoff cleanly and playing a beautiful chorus.
This is one of the strongest tracks on the CD.
Paul opening to “Lady’s In Love” let’s you know
it’s a swinger, the kind of song this band will kill every
night. Sweeney is fine, gliding over the rhythm, but
the band is the show here. I love “But Beautiful”. Listen
to Danny’s octaves behind D.J.’s opening, so nice.
Sweeney generally lets the song sing itself, but lets the
note fall on “fall”, I could have done without that touch.
Tim has a fine chorus, and Cambron’s brushwork is all
about taste. Keep listening to Albright’s line for awhile
behind Paul’s solo, just gorgeous. “Lovely Day” is a
great song, with a fine arrangement. I think I’d like
to hear D.J. do an entire set of Berlin (and Gershwin
for that matter), as she treats the early American pop
songbook with love. “Old Devil Moon” is a hot closer,
and is taken fast and with a lot of busy-ness from the
rhythm section throughout.
D.J. takes chances throughout this set. Most work,
too, and I commend her for trying them. The material
is varied and has some real challenges, and seems
designed to not be stuck in one repetitive groove. And
no one will ever fault her for hiring this great band.
Keep up the work, D.J.
— Roger Atkinson

- JAM Magazine Dec./Jan. 2008-09


"Are You The One?" released November 2008 by Indie label "Diva Productions." Radio play on martinitimeradio.com, KKFI (kkfi.org), KANU(kanu.ku.edu) and soon many many more stations nationally, including XM radio station, "High Standards."
"DJ Sweeney" released August 2006
radio play on KKFI 90.1 and streamed at kkfi.org, KANU(kanu.ku.edu), martinitimeradio.com, KPFK in Burbank, CA(kpfk.org)
D.J. Sweeney's "Are You The One?" available at: http://cdbaby.com/cd/djsweeney2



My band is pretty much straight-ahead jazz. Tempos vary from ballads to fast swinging tunes. I (D.J. Sweeney) perform all over Kansas City and surrounding areas. My influences are many. I grew up listening to all kinds of music, but stuck with with jazz because it was my favorite. My influences are Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughn, Billy Holiday, Anita O'Day, Diana Krall, Peggy Lee, Abbey Lincoln, Jane Monheit, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Joni Mitchell, Ricki Lee Jones.
In addition to playing at clubs, I have performed at The Plaza Art Fair and two of The Coleman Hawkin's Jazz Festivals. The one in Topeka and the one in St Joseph. I also perform outdoors on the Country Club Plaza's "Plaza Live" series in the summer.
I'm taking the jazz standards and breathing new life into them because this music is beautiful and playful and needs to be shared with the world. People will dance, they will cry and they will remember the soulfulness pouring out of each song as they listen to the words and interpretation of the music.