Roseanna Vitro Quartet: Live at The Kitano
New York, NY
October 7-8, 2006
Tucked away on New York City's prestigious Park Avenue is The Kitano Hotel, a beautiful Japanese-styled hostelry providing a respite from the clamor of midtown Manhattan. Within the confines of the hotel is an intimate and visually pleasing lounge that presents jazz music on Wednesdays and weekends. In June, 2006, Artistic Manager Gino Moratti assumed responsibility for building the jazz program at the Kitano Lounge. Currently seating 66 people ensures that the seating between artist and audience will be in close proximity.
Among the players who have appeared and are scheduled for September and October are Milt Jackson Tribute Band featuring Joe Locke, Dena Derose Trio, Frank Kimbrough Trio, David Kikoski Trio, Don Friedman Quartet featuring Dave Glasser, Bill Mays Trio.
Appearing over the October 7/8 weekend was the Roseanna Vitro Quartet. These performances were dedicated to the memory of Kathryn Werner, daughter of Kenny Werner, who lost her life this past week in an auto accident. Kenny Werner has been Vitro's first-call pianist/arranger. The singer performed a medley of two Bill Evans compositions and sang the meaningful "Only Child" with lyrics by Gene Lees that segued into the full-blown jazz waltz version of "Waltz For Debbie". The familiar lyrics were also penned by Gene Lees. This medley served to underscore first the acknowledgement of loss and the then affirmation, a masterful and inspired combination.
Roseanna Vitro's trio consisted of veteran and respected pianist/arranger Allen Farnham who was virtually the "house pianist" for Concord Records during the 1990s, Dean Johnson on bass and much in-demand drummer Tim Horner. Vitro opened the set appropriately with Nick Kenny's "Laughing At Life". Taken up-tempo, she interjected the tune with self-assured scatting that brought back memories of Anita O'Day in her prime. Vitro followed with a Djavan bossa nova, "Serrado", with English lyrics provided by Steve Sachs. Vitro once again added scat solos during the instrumental breaks that the trio deftly provided. Eddie Harris' jazz standard, "Freedom Jazz Dance", gave Roseanna Vitro a chance to show her jazz vocal chops on the Eddie Jefferson lyrics and in fact performing it much in the spirit of the late singer. Vitro had recorded this tune on her 1994 album Passion Dance. The song was also highlighted by a rocking piano solo by pianist Farnham. Mose Allison's "Everybody's Cryin' Mercy" slowed things down to a bluesy showcase for Vitro and then Farnham who had the audience won over with his solo.
Roseanna Vitro re-ignitied the crowd with her up-tempo take on the Burke/Van Heusen standard, "Like Someone In Love". When it came to the second chorus, she smartly used jazz phrasing to re-shape the tune.
Ivan Lins' popular ballad of the 1990s. "The Island" was taken romantically with Tim Horner offering some tasty brushwork. As the number progressed in tempo and vocal strength, Horner switched to sticks effectively changing the accompaniment to suit the singer's dynamism.
The conclusion of the set offered a truly unique opportunity to share the singer's sense of spontaneity. Roseanna Vitro must have sensed a simpatico feeling with her audience and advised that she wanted to do a tune that she hadn't attempted in some time (McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance") but was up for it. Vitro had written lyrics for this demanding up-tempo bebop composition for her aforementioned 1994 album.
"Passion Dance" is a bebop composition with constantly shifting portions that would be a challenge to most jazz vocalists.
The singer then realized that she needed an additional tune to make the segue from a ballad into "Passion Dance" and called for the Mack Gordon/Harry Warren standard "There Will Never Be Another You." The tune was swung mightily by both Vitro and the trio. At the song's conclusion, the lights came up and the first set was over leaving a sense of disappointment that hopefully was resolved by a performance of the song later that night. Having heard the Vitro recorded version, just a few hours before while in transit, I knew what the audience was missing!