First, allow me to say that I agree with all of the 4-star reviews below (particularly Mr. Chell's). I'm at 4 and 1/2, and I've decided to up my rating to 5 rather than reduce it to 4, for this reason:
Ms. Gambarini's initial release 3 years ago, "Easy to Love," was one of the finest debut recordings in history. In particular, her versions of "Sunny Side of the Street" and "Multi-Colored Blue" were hair-raisingly sensational. I agree that nothing on this c.d. approaches the heights of those two songs.
However, as I have listened to this c.d. repeatedly, I am struck by the conclusion that Roberta Gambarini, with this recording, has firmly secured her status as this generation's answer to Ella Fitzgerald. In fact, the comparison is overt.
Listen to how she whips and scats in "Day In Day Out," "That Old Black Magic," and "From This Moment On," for example. How can you not miss the influence of Ella in these cuts?
Or check out her work on "You Must Believe in Spring" and on the Beatles medley ("Golden Slumbers/Here There and Everywhere," done as a quick-step waltz). The balladization again is stunningly reminiscent of Ella.
And then there's "You Ain't Nothin' But a JAMF." (A Johnny Griffin tune, wherein I assume the "J" stands for Jive and the "M" for Mother, and you can figure out the rest....) Jimmy Witherspoon once said of Ella Fitzgerald, "You can tune a tuning fork by Ella, but she can't sing the blues." Ditto for Roberta Gambarini. Like Ms. Fitzgerald, her intonation and purity of straight-toned sound throughout both of her singing ranges are flawless and non-pareil; but blues or blues-based tunes will never be her signatures.
This c.d., as well as the later-released but in fact first recording with Hank Jones, firmly plants Roberta Gambarini in my mind as this generation's answer to Ella Fitzgerald, more than any other contemporary singer. And for that, I give her 5 stars.
But I promise to be pickier on the next release. No "Songbook" recordings, now, Roberta, you hear?! RC
on March 27, 2011
One of the most refreshing aspects of jazz in the last 10-15 years has been the ascent of a number of very fine female jazz vocalists--singers such as Tierney Sutton, Stacey Kent, Sara Gazarek, Carol Welsman and Nikki Yanofsky. And, Roberta Gambarini. To compare these singers to one another isn't really fair--each has her own style and each is at a different point on her career journey, but Ms. Gambarini certainly belongs on the "short list" of best female jazz singers working today--she has all the tools in the toolbox.
In an era when many female American pop singers can't even sing a lyric where the words are intelligible, Ms. Gambarini--for whom English is not her native language--caresses every syllable with her lovely voice with perfect pitch, perfect pronunciation and beautiful emotion. (She also sings one song on this album in her native Italian--equally well and clearly.) While some jazz purists might wince at the comparison, Ms. Gambarini's ballad singing reminds me very much of that of Doris Day. Also like Doris Day, Ms. Gambarini's singing can be pure and innocent, while simultaneously being quite sultry, smoldering, and sensuous--that makes for an irresistible combination, especially for many of we males of the human species.
All of this album is quite enjoyable, but a few tunes absolutely shine out. A favorite of mine is the title tune, Cole Porter's "So In Love," sung impeccably by Roberta with only piano accompaniment. Here, my comparison to Doris Day is unavoidable. A beautiful ballad, sung with emotion that is simultaneously strong, yet tender. Ecstasy.
For me, the highlight of this album is a surprising one--Ms. Gambarini's interpretation of Willie Nelson's composition made popular by Patsy Cline--"Crazy." Which brings me to another fine aspect of this album--Ms. Gambarini is surrounded by a varied cadre of supporting musicians on this outing, all top-notch. On this tune, the lovely trumpet player Roy Hargrove is the featured instrumental soloist. After nearly half-a-century, I do believe that Patsy Cline's iconic performance of "Crazy" has been topped. This is not a "cut" against Patsy Cline's singing, but throughout her short career she was handicapped by recording with a number of "second-tier" musicians who often failed to showcase her lovely voice properly. Roberta Gambarini has no such handicap here. Her singing is every bit as beautiful and compelling as Cline's, with lovely accompaniment, then comes Hargrove's wonderfully tender trumpet solo. Hey, Willie, you always liked jazz standards out of the Great American Songbook--well, your "Crazy" just became one.
Though she swings several tunes on this album with complete aplomb, it is when Roberta sings ballads that she is at her most magical. Of all the current crop of female jazz singers that I mentioned above, Roberta can vocally caress and love a ballad better than any--and that is saying a lot, considering that all of those singers can be wonderful ballad singers. Even on "non-traditional" ballads, Roberta shines. Listen to her delicious treatment of the Beatles' tune "Golden Slumbers," performed here more exquisitely than Paul McCartney could ever hope for. Another lovely vocal excursion is Ms. Gambarini's treatment of the main theme from "Cinema Paradiso."
Finally, this review would not be complete without a nod to the late James Moody, a mentor of Ms. Gambarini, who joined her for three tunes on this album--all three featuring the lovely solo and accompanying saxophone work for which he was long known and for which he will be forever remembered.
No doubt, Roberta Gambarini's debut album, "Easy to Love," was a jazz tour de force that this album may not equal in the eyes (or, more correctly, the ears) of some. No matter, this one is still 5-stars--better than many a vocal jazz album and leagues above most any pop vocal album out there. For lovers of female vocal jazz, especially those who love the Great American Songbook, this album is an "essential." As for Ms. Gambarini, she is one of those relatively new and fresh female jazz lions that is "going places."
on September 6, 2009
Roberta again shines on this CD: her voice is strong, smooth, and dripping with feeling. And, the sterling side-players are equally compelling; indeed, they play with admirable restraint in order to allow Roberta to remain front and center. To my mind, the song selection leaves a bit to be desired: too many of these songs are long-time staples, and it may be that, like me, you are somewhat tired of them. (And, I was disappointed to hear the "I" at the end of "Over the Rainbow" seem to morph into a different sound.) But fans of glorious jazz singing should surely have no hesitation about this CD.
on December 20, 2015
The best rendition of Cole Porter's SO IN LOVE and Willie Nelson's CRAZY, sung exactly the way Porter and Nelson had intended these beautiful, timeless classics - with throbbing sentimentality and velvety refinement.
on February 26, 2013
I have all of Roberta Gambarini's recordings (all bought via amazon.com, the only way to buy any recorded music) and this one is in my highly considered opinion the best by all criteria.
Forget the comparison with Ella...who is always Ella and true to her unique talents, which of course are beyond compare in her era or since.
Simply put, Roberta is the best of the living singers, jazz or swing. Period. And she would have been right there at the top in any other era, Ella et al included.
The biggest difference between Ella and Roberta is that Ella is a musical powerhouse while Roberta projects a heart, soul and inner sensitivity that is in a class unto itself. As every song on this CD attests.
Benny Carter and Hank Jones were the first to recognize Roberta (before her recordings in the U.S.) and of course there was no way those two could have been wrong.
Roberta Gambarina is the best of today, would have been at the top in the 30s, 40s and 50s, and has only just begun...
Stay tuned for the magic that she is yet to weave.
(nurtured on the best of the past, from Ellington to 30 years as Anita O'Day's best friend, appreciator and booster)
on July 13, 2011
A great recording by an individual who was born fifty years too late. A great voice, great diction, great jazz feel. A beautiful solo by Roy Hargrove on "Crazy".
All in all, a most satisfying listen.
on August 31, 2013
Boy, when a singer is also a musician,
has a mature voice, and surrounds herself
with first tier jazz musicians it really shows
doesn't it? This material is as beautiful
and solid as it gets. She may be from
Italy, but she sure acts like an American
songstress of the highest pedigree.
Refined, confident, articulate,
experienced and controlled
all the way.
on December 28, 2009
I have watched her career over a number of years and her rise has been steady and steadily entertaining. She is a musician, an entertainer and a tasteful interpreter. She may end up as our first lady of song one day.
[After repeated listening to "So in Love" I've had to raise my rating to a full five. Her first album, "Easy to Love," was simply so jaw-dropping that a sense of some anticlimax was all but inevitable on the succeeding dates. But listening to her phrasing and flawless performance of a tune like "Over the Rainbow" on the present session is by itself cause for reconsideration. She sustains the expansive line (and holds the listener's attention) throughout a "free-time" performance of the entire song--verse, chorus, coda (many singers omit the verse; most vocalists sing only part of the tune without benefit of a regular, locked-in tempo.]
By now many listeners have heard nonagenarian Hank Jones' extravagant claim that Roberta Gambarini is the best female jazz singer to come along in the past 60 years (translation: she's the first bona fide successor to Ella and Sarah). All you have to hear is her version of "On the Sunnyside of the Street" from her first of three major albums, "Easy to Love" ("So in Love" is the third--an impressive achievement in itself during a time when most new talent is going unrecorded or resorting to self-produced projects). But once you listen to the aforementioned Jimmy McHugh chestnut as performed by Roberta performing the version by Dizzy, Rollins and Stitt (replicating their solos), you realize that Jones' assertion is not necessarily hyperbolic. The only singers who come to mind with chops comparable to Roberta's are Ann Hampton Calloway and Cheryl Bentyne. Of course, there's much more to being a jazz singer than having pyrotechnical skills (otherwise, heaven help Billie Holiday), but Roberta gives evidence of being able to distill a tune, such as the title song of "So in Love," to its expressive essence. She's so strong--as a musician, actress, stage presence--that her self-assured confidence at times seems to be her greatest obstacle. You almost wish she could be slightly less definitive, less perfect, more vulnerable and spontaneous in order to capture a bit more of the surprise, delight, and emotion of in-the-moment creation, whether on the ballads or up-tempo numbers. So far, she's still singing "for" the listener--and a highly fastidious one to be sure--rather than directly "to" the listener. With the self-assurance of greater acceptance and fame, one hopes that she can forget about merely "impressing" the audience, whether with her chops or her ultra-calm composure, and emulate Ella and Sarah, who could be vulnerable and excitable, reaching for yet not always attaining perfection.
In sum, Roberta Gambarini is special. She's singular, an anomaly, a polymath blessed not only with an exceptional instrument and technique, with a genuine understanding for the "language" of jazz as spoken by its founding fathers (Pops, Ellington) and leading revolutionaries (Bird, Diz, Stitt), but with an acute intelligence (her knowledge of, and respect for, American jazz history is evident in her choice of friends, co-musicians, and repertory), and with a superior command of the English language--all of which put her "beyond category." Practically each of these interpretations is either equal to some the previous acknowledged landmarks or sets a new standard of interpretive excellence for a familiar standard. And it's apparent that she's reaching to a wider audience--a Patsy Cline number, a Beatles medley--while still making her jazz credentials unmistakable ("You Ain't Nothing But a JAMPH).
No doubt the photographer/producer was pleased with the glammed-up image on the front cover, though one kind of hopes the subject doesn't take it too seriously. It's the equivalent of a Playboy brush-up, gratuitous to the musical performance. On the other hand, if that's what it takes to gain her the audience share she deserves, I'm all for it.
This is a fine album, even though it confirms the sui generis status of her debut, "Easy to Love," one of the exceptional vocal jazz recordings of this or any other millennium.
"As I look back at all the songs here, I realize that this album is all about love: the love between man and a woman, the love of song, the love of children, but most of all, the love of life itself....I would like to thank my family, friends, and all music lovers all over the world for supporting this music. My hope is that the next years will bring a renewed, heightened awareness and appreciation of this form of art....Keep music education alive, and GOOD music on the air." ~ Roberta Gambarini ~
First off, this recording has been nominated for the 52nd Grammy Awards in the category of Best Vocal Jazz Album. So what's so special about this album that it earned a Grammy nomination?
Roberta Gambarini boasts an extraordinary style of singing that will easily grab the listener's undivided attention. In addition, she can scat with fluency and grace without hesitation and makes it sound so melodiously pleasant to the ears. She can sing any song with the jazziest arrangement and can pull it off effortlessly. She's also very impressive in delivering slow tempo ballads and giving them justice and emotional honesty. She can add sparkling charms to ordinary songs and turn them into exceptional ones with her artful and convincing interpretations. Aren't these compelling reasons why this recording earned a Grammy nomination?
With this album, I have discovered fresh interpretations with pretty great arrangements of rare Italian standards that I'd love to listen with a few repeats. A perfect example is "Estate" featuring Gerald Clayton's articulate chops on piano, Chuck Berghofer's precise workings on bass and Jake Hanna's grooves on drums. Another one is the medley of "Cinema Paradiso" where Roberta Gambarini is backed by pianist Eric Gunnison, bassist George Mraz and drummer Al Foster.
Her "childhood idol" and mentor James Moody, who himself is a great tenor saxophonist, graced this recording with his outstanding performances on "Get Out of Town," "I See Your Face Before Me" and "This Is Always." Roy Hargrove, a versatile musician who can play trumpet and flugelhorn, showed off his talent in both instruments heard in "Crazy" (flugelhorn) and "This Is Always" (trumpet).
The effervescent "Day In Day Out," bubbly "That Old Black Magic" and scat-a-plenty "From This Moment On" were all rendered with blazing fire and tons of energy while timeless "Over The Rainbow" was executed dramatically with only a piano accompaniment by a fine musician, Tamir Hendelman. It was very nice of Ms. Gambarini to have added the seldom-heard introductory verse from the treasure chests of songwriters Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg.
I could go on and on about all the great things this album has to offer, but suffice it to say that it is one of the finest jazz recordings ever produced. Wholeheartedly recommended!
P.S. Congratulations to Ms. Gambarini, all the fine musicians, Larry Clothier, and Al Schmitt for making this album so remarkable and worthy for a Grammy nomination.