By Luke Seabright | Published November 2018
The soulful lines of Thomas Kugi’s tenor saxophone open the proceedings, and r&b is on the agenda. Milan Nikolic adds a funky bass riff to the colorful harmonies of Dena DeRose’s piano, the only newcomer on Maaike Den Dunnen’s sophomore album. Soul jazz and gospel grooves also can be heard on “Over And Done With,” the closing number on Inner Space. But the journey in between takes listeners along a different road, one of mellow textures and quiet introspection.
On “The Deep,” a lilting 5/8 bass line, slightly offbeat piano chords and expansive layers of synthesizer create a dreamy, weightless atmosphere, elevating Den Dunnen’s limpid vocals. The lack of drums also contributes to this floating feeling, although this absence can at times be detrimental, as on “Ground Control,” where the trio of instrumentalists doesn’t quite steer the ship. “The Gambler” takes on a more jaunty, whimsical flavor after the light, folksy tone of “There Once More,” and next up is the first of three covers on the album. Den Dunnen’s affinity for classic pop songs can be heard on Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love” and James Morrison’s “You Give Me Something,” but the highlight has to be her sultry duet with Kugi on “On The Sunny Side Of The Street.”
Den Dunnen delivers vocals with clarity, warmth and subtlety throughout Inner Space. The album is likely to dissatisfy those who enjoy their contemporary jazz full of rhythmic propulsion and improvisational grit. But it’s an impressive effort from one of the genre’s promising young vocalists.
Inner Space: Nature’s Call; The Deep; There Once More; The Gambler; Can’t Help Falling In Love; You Give Me Something; Ground Control; On The Sunny Side Of The Street; A Sea Of Waves; All Inside Your Heart; Over And Done With. (52:23)
Personnel: Maaike Den Dunnen, vocals; Thomas Kugi, tenor, soprano saxophone; Dena DeRose, piano, Rhodes, synthesizer; Milan Nikolic, bass.