Meredith d'Ambrosio: By Myself (2012)
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The deliciously husky contralto of Meredith d'Ambrosio is unlike any other today, but that's obvious. What is not immediately evident is the effect it has, the body's temperature rising slowlynot after listening to a few charts on By Myself, for that would take too long; but after hearing but a few short choruses. By the time the song in question is over, the mind is delirious and ready to surrender body and soul to d'Ambrosio. Of course it helps that the vocalist is a truly gifted storyteller who inhabits the many sultry tales in Arthur Schwartz's music, whose noir music she celebrates on this album.
D'Ambrosio has a voice that is limited in its range; not unlike Shirley Horn, she uses what she has to the best effect. She is essentially a troubadour who tells a story with sublime elegance and vividness. And she breaks hearts like the spurned lover in the last track of the album, the legendary "Haunted Heart." Like that lover, d'Ambrosio sings in grey tones and sometimes in the colors of rust and terracotta. Her annunciation is clear and her inflection just barely above a whisper. None of this seems to matter though. She begins a line softly, and just when it seems it will continue to sound at that low pitch and die there, d'Ambrosio takes the pitch up a few quarter tones; repeating the line, she spirals it back and down a notch. The faint vibrato in her voice dies and there is a faint echoing "ahumph" in its place, or just a sigha very sad sigh.
Like Sheila Jordan, pitch does not matter much. The song's emotion is delivered in minute, nuanced quarter and sixteenth tones that seem almost hidden to the ear. The key is listening to d'Ambrosio with the whole body. Sometimes a sigh will mean more than a whole unspoken series of choruses. There is much of this in many of the songs here. "I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plan" is one such song that echoes these emotions in just that manner. This is also the nuanced manner in which "You And The Night And The Music" is writtenand sung by d'Ambrosio.
The vocalist is also her own best accompanist and, like Horn, the dynamics she employs on piano are as nuanced as her own voice. Although this is a consistent feature of the album, the crowning moments come in "Dancing in the Dark," because the lyric line is almost constantly accompanied by the piano and when it is not, the piano continues as if it were d'Ambrosio's voice itself. With this album, d'Ambrosio joins Sheila Jordan as one of the finest living story tellers in music.
Track Listing: By Myself; Through A Thousand Dreams; Once Upon A Long Ago; If There Is Someone Lovelier Than You; All Through The Night; High And Low; I Guess I’ll Have To Change My Plan; You And The Night And The Music; Something To Remember You By; Dancing In The Dark; Then I’ll Be Tired Of You; Why Go Anywhere At All?; I See Your Face Before Me; Haunted Heart.
Personnel: Meredith d’Ambrosio: piano, voice.
Record Label: Sunnyside Records