Greta Matassa: Live at Tula's (2004)
The session begins promisingly with "Save Your Love From Me" from the Buddy Johnson songbook (but more popularized by the Cannonball Adderley/Nancy Wilson recording) with a nice groove and feeling from the singer. We then get a series of three consecutive ballads, "The Nearness of You," "For All We Know," and "Tenderly"—all good songs, but there's a sameness about them insofar as presentation is concerned. Matassa is an adequate vocalist, and after the brief piano solo, on the first two, she attempts to re-interpret the lyrics. This technique only partially succeeds, as I kept thinking about what Betty Carter et al. would have done.
She fares better on mid-tempo songs like Jobim's adapted "Boy from Ipanema" or the bluesy Redman/Razaf "Ain't I Good to You." The inclusion of the Webster & Burke "Black Coffee," developed here into a stomping down-home blues, is surely Matassa's closer or encore. The lyrics of unrequited love are given a fine toe-tapping presentation but her vocal deteriorates into histrionics as Matassa enacts the last chorus replete with lots of melisma and vocal swoops that you might expect from an R&B diva. I'm sure that it plays out better in person than on disc.
Pianist Randy Halberstadt provides empathetic support and really gets to shine on the blues-based numbers like "Black Coffee" and "Ain't I Good to You" and bassist Clipper Anderson gets in some solo work in "I've Got You Under My Skin."
Note: this album was recorded in multi-channel SACD.
Track Listing: Save Your Love For Me, Ain't I Good To You, Night and Day, The Nearness of You, For All We Know, Tenderly, Boy From Ipanema, Black Coffee, Willow Weep for Me, Stompin' at the Savoy, Speak Low, The Shadow of Your Smile, I've Got You Under My Skin.
Personnel: Greta Matassa, vocals; Randy Halberstadt,piano; Clipper Anderson,bass; Gary Hobbs,drums