Roseanna Vitro is on tour throughout the U.S. these days, promoting her new CD, Live At The Kennedy Center
. She gave two performances in New York recently, the CD's launch at The Blue Note on May 29 and an all-Porter tribute show at The Jolly Madison Hotel's Whaler Bar on the composer's birthday June 9. Porter didn't show, but one wonders what he would make of the metamorphosis in jazz singing that has occurred since his heyday as a jazz composer in the 1930s.
It's hard to imagine that Porter would have any complaints: Vitro is the quintessence of modern vocal jazz interpretation. Vitro demonstrates an impressive command of jazz technique and invests each moment of her performance with a visceral understanding of the material. Vitro admitted that she had to learn several new tunes in a short period of time for the Jolly Madison gig; if she hadn't mentioned it no one would have known, so exceptional is her improv ability. But don't take my word for it. Vitro's audiences are often filled with other singers and musicians. You know a singer is good when other singers and the musicians come out to hear her.
Vitro is careful to select some of the best instrumentalists around for her band. David Budway (piano), Dean Johnson (bass) and Tim Horner (drums) backed her at the Jolly Madison. Budway is a demon player equally at home with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as with the likes of jazz violinist Regina Carter and drummer Jeff 'Tain' Watts. On the CD and at The Blue Note Vitro appeared with her long-standing collaborator Kenny Werner on piano, along with Johnson and Horner, her ever-faithful rhythmic anchors.
Besides artful playing, Werner contributed musical direction and arrangements to the Kennedy Center live recording. Werner recently signed with Blue Note Records; his playing and Vitro's vocals give a rare and valuable lesson in abandonment to artistic impulse. Among the recording's many inspirational moments: "Commitment, a ballad with music by Werner and lyrics by Vitro's husband, saxophonist Paul Wickliffe; and a free improv piece called "Twelve Tone Tune (or "T.T.T. ), with music by Bill Evans and lyrics by Wickliffe. The disc also shows off Vitro's strong R&B chops on the blues tunes "Black Coffee and "Tryin' Times.
Vitro represents the U.S. internationally as one of the State Department's Jazz Ambassadors. In addition to Live At The Kennedy Center, distributed through Challenge Records, she has nine CDs to her credit, available through her website, www.roseannavitro.com.
Personnel: Roseanna Vitro: vocals; Kenny Werner: piano; Dean Johnson: bass; Tim Horner: drums.