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Italian Jazz

By Published: February 9, 2008
Arguably, the most important of the three nights will be the first one, because Maria Pia De Vito is widely held to be the best jazz singer in Italy and (with one minor exception years ago) she has never performed in the United States. She will be at Blue Note February 1st with a top-drawer New York rhythm section (Ed Simon, Scott Colley, Clarence Penn). De Vito's distinguished 25-year career has touched projects in jazz, Baroque, pop and electronic music. Her collaborations have included jazz musicians like John Taylor and Ralph Towner, classical composers and conductors like Roberto De Simone and Colin Towns and even sculptors and video artists like Marisa Albanese. Her latest recording, So Right, dedicated to the music of Joni Mitchell, has received strong reviews in Europe and has just been released in the United States on CAMJazz. De Vito's version of "The River" is the best since Joni's own. She possesses a vocal instrument that is extraordinary in its range, purity and power and most of all in its nuanced expressiveness. She is one of the rare singers with an authority that allows you to simply give yourself over to her.

Roberta Gambarini will appear on February 2nd. She was born in Torino, Italy, but many jazz fans regard her as part of the US jazz scene because she moved here nine years ago, speaks fluent English and tours and records with American musicians. In 2007, her debut album, Easy To Love, received a Grammy nomination and she finished first (by a wide margin) in the "Rising Star Female Vocalist" category of the Downbeat Critics Poll. Her second album as a leader, a duo project with Hank Jones called You Are There (Emarcy), is scheduled for release this month. Gambarini's vocal chops are already legend and she is one of the most gifted current practitioners of the vocalese art form.

February 3rd at Blue Note will be given over to the Big O Orchestra, an all-female Italian-American big band. The excellent tenor/soprano saxophonist Ada Rovatti (wife of Randy Brecker) will be a featured soloist and the repertoire will contain exclusively original compositions by band members and by arranger/conductor Tommaso Vittorini. While Vittorini is regarded as one of the best arrangers to come out of Italy, since emigrating to the US in the '80s, he has mostly been out of jazz and sometimes out of music. He has composed and arranged soundtracks for film and television and has also been involved in television production. His work with the Big O Orchestra represents a return to jazz.

For those yet to discover the unique aesthetic and sensual gratifications of Italian jazz, Blue Note in early February should be a good place to start.

Recommended Listening:

Danilo Rea — Lirico (Egea, 2003)

Stefano Bollani — Gleda (Stunt, 2004)

Enrico Rava — Tati (ECM, 2004)

Enrico Pieranunzi — Live In Japan (CAMJazz, 2004)

Francesco Cafiso — A Tribute To Charlie Parker (Umbria Jazz, 2005)

Renato Sellani/Massimo Moriconi — Blues For Chet (Philology, 2007)

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