Roberta Gambarini: Making Listeners Fall 'So In Love'
Although not formally trained, Gambarini arranges most of her music and did nearly all of it on the new disc. The album title, she says, wasn't premeditated. "The concept came out after," says Gambarini. "I had some tunes that I knew I liked, that I connected with." Other tunes came during the process. "So In Love" was not planned initially. "I just decided to do it in the studio. Then later on, when I saw the list of tunes. I saw there was a theme, a kind if unified selection. I also decided to add the two tunes that I had recorded a long time ago, in 2001. I felt they would be homogeneous with the rest of the tunes. They would fit. So I decided to put them in. It wasn't planned ahead."
Selecting songs is a personal thing for an artist. "To select a tune, what I look for is a storysomething in the song I can connect to on a profound level. It's usually something in the lyric, but also the melody's very important. It's a combination of three factors. It's got to be something that makes it so I can connect with the tune on a personnel level," says the singer. "For arrangement, all I look for is a presentation that allows the song to be the center of attention and the message of the song to be delivered in the most direct and truthful way possible. The arrangement is just a tool for the song to be presented and communicated in the purest way possible for me."
Leaving room for improvisation is also an important facet. "Absolutely," she says. "Because of the nature of our work, if there's no improvisation and if everything is predetermined from the beginning, then I believe that truthfulness cannot be communicated. We change every minute. We're never the same. If there's no room for us to express the changes that we go through, there can't be any truthfulness. In my presentation there's always room for improvisation or changes of expression."
The songs brought in for So In Love from the 2001 session are "Medley from Cinema Paradisio" and "You Must Believe In Spring." They were recorded after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and the latter song took on a special significance.
Gambarini was in her New York apartment when images of the airplane attacks on the Twin Towers came on her television. Naturally, there was chaos, confusion and fear. She says the events made her feel more like a New Yorker and an American.
"I was scheduled to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival in mid-September. There was a question whether we were going or not going. For a few days planes couldn't leave, then when they allowed a few planes to leave, everybody was traumatized. You didn't really feel much like flying. But I'm glad in the end I did. (She flew out Sept. 15) We went to the stretch of coast near Monterey. I have a lot of friends in Big Sur. There's a studio in Big Sur near Pfeiffer Beach, which is one of my favorite places. ... I went there and I recorded with George Mraz and Eric Gunnison and Al Foster. We recorded these tunes and, it seemed to me ("You Must Believe In Spring") was a good choice of song and of lyric, given the tragic situation. It reflected what I was thinking at the moment and what I was trying to do, which was trying to produce music and try to produce beauty in a situation where everyone was still very much in shock."
For any jazz singer, the pianist is very important. Gambarini says the three on the record datetwo youngsters, Tamir Hendelman and Gerald Clayton, and the veteran Eric Gunnisonare all special. "I've known all of them for a long time. Gerald was introduced to me by Benny Carter when he was 16. I've known Eric for many, many years. Eric was the piano player for Carmen McRae, so in addition to knowing him for about 10 years, since I moved to the States, I was also very familiar with his playing before. I saw him live many times with Carmen, in Italy. Tamir was on my first album. He's been a friend for many years. Those are three of my favorite piano players."
Having good musicians around her helps her be at her freest in the music. Gambarini has always, it seems, had fine people around her, including George Mraz, Willie Jones III, Hargrove, Moody, Jeff Hamilton, Chucho Valdes, Cedar Walton, Russell Malone and many more. She has also recorded a number with Dave Brubeck for a yet-to-be- released album the legendary pianist is doing for Disney Productions. Gambarini sang "Alice in Wonderland" with Brubeck.