Roberta Gambarini: Easy To Love (2006)
This debut outing from Roberta Gambarini sees the Italian-born jazz vocalist pair up with two star-studded rhythm sections and legendary tenor saxophonist James Moody, to present what has to be one of the best vocal jazz albums of the decade.
Opening with Cole Porter's classic title track Gambarini's exquisite tone and masterful rhythmic phrasing are immediately on display in the first a capella section. The gradual addition of bass and brushes does little to prepare you for what happens next, as the whole ensemble propels into a steaming swing that leaves you merciful you are only at Track One of the album and bewildered as to why you haven't heard the name Roberta Gambarini before.
A talented arranger and writer in the vocalese tradition, Gambarini's lyrical/scat adaptation of the Rollins/Stitt/ Gillespie saxophone and trumpet solos on "On the Sunny Side of the Street" is breathtaking, delivered with an effortless energy reminiscent of the great Kurt Elling. The presence of Moody, who apparently drove all the way from his San Diego home to the Los Angeles studio to record two tracks, is a real bonus. His playing on "Lover Man" and "Centerpiece" is sublime and his spontaneous scat duet with Gambarini on "Centerpiece" a truly memorable moment.
The album closes with a medley of two lesser-known Monk numbers, interpreted with a sincerity that confirms the pianist/composer's influence on Gamabarini's musical vision.
Easy to Love showcases Gambarini as a true master of her art. Her natural lyricism and technical command are displayed fully on this outstanding debut album, making it easy to see why she can boast a list of admirers that includes Hank Jones and the late Michael Brecker.
Track Listing: Easy to Love; Only Trust Your Heart; Lover Man; On The Sunny Side Of The Street; Porgy, I's Your Woman Now/I Loves You, Porgy; Lover Come Back To Me; The Two Lonely People; Centerpiece; Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry; No More Blues; Smoke Gets In Your Eyes/All The Things You Are; Too Late Now; Multi-Colored Blue; Monk's Prayer/Looking Back.
Personnel: Roberta Gambarini: vocals; James Moody: tenor sax and vocals (3, 8); Tamir Handelman: piano (1, 3-14); Gerald Clayton: piano (2); John Clayton: bass (2, 3, 5, 8, 11); Chuck Berghofer: bass (1, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13, 14); Willie Jones III: drums (1-3, 5, 8, 11, 14); Joe LaBarbera: drums (4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13).