Jessica Molaskey: Pentimento (2002)
With the seemingly steady rise of interest in traditional American popular song, the result has been a treasure trove of CD reissues, a Renaissance of careers of more seasoned veteran performers, and the appearance of many new singers who draw upon the repertoire and inspiration of the Great American Songbook. Along with the work of veterans such as Weslia Whitfield, the recently late Rosemary Clooney, and relative newcomers such as Stacey Kent, another traditional pop songstress has arrived.
Pentimento, the new CD by Jessica Molaskey primarily mines the rare ore of songs from the era between the World Wars. Molaskey, and an impressive supporting cast including husband John, and father-in-law Bucky Pizzarelli, provide more than a mere recasting of this music. Instead of a stylized recreation by a repertoire-type ensemble, Molaskey and her assemblage, which also includes the clarinet of Ken Peplowski and the violin of Johnny Frigo, unearth a fresh, lightly swinging perspective that uncovers the sheer underlying beauty of these older songs. Molaskey performs the Eubie Blake/Noble Sissle classic “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” as a ballad rather than in its more familiar up-tempo version. As a ballad, a new tenderness of the lyric and the heartfelt emotion of this song come through like the beauty of aged wood grain hidden under stripped away old varnish. Another interesting twist is the inclusion of the seldom-heard verse to the song “Oh, You Beautiful Doll.” Molaskey’s voice is enchanting as she interprets songs such as “You Made Me Love You,” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” Her version of “Look for the Silver Lining,” even rivals the delicate rendition recorded by Chet Baker in the 1950’s.
Molaskey also demonstrates her writing talents with her added lyrics to Irving Berlin’s “Oh, How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning,” and original songs “I Tried Too Hard For Too Long,” and “Sail Away” co-written with husband John Pizzarelli. Molaskey also includes one song not from the 20th century. Her version of Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer,” reveals the sentimental essence of this old chestnut.
The recording quality of Pentimento is superb. The musicians assembled for the session represent top shelf talent. The quality of the sound is crystal clear with Molaskey’s very precise diction perfectly balanced with the accompanying instruments. For fans of traditional popular song and/or just fun sounding swinging music Pentimento is highly recommended as an addition to one’s CD collection.
Track Listing: Oh You Beautiful Doll, I'm Just Wild About Harry, Ain't We Got Fun, What'll I Do, With Plenty Of Money And You/We're In The Money, Waitin' For The Train To Come In, Red Red Robin, By The Beautiful Sea, I'm Always Chasing Rainbows, Oh How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning, You Made Me Love You, I Tried Too Hard For Too Long, When I Lost You, Look For the Silver Lining, I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Beautiful Dreamer, Sail Away
Personnel: Jessica Molaskey, vocals; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar and uke; John Pizzarelli, guitar, uke and additional vocals; Martin Pizzarelli, bass; Larry Goldings, piano; Ray Kennedy, piano; Johnny Frigo, violin; Ken Peplowski, clarinet; Tony Tedesco, brushes on phone book; Jesse Levy, cello.