Laurie Antonioli: American Dreams (2010)
The remarkable ingenuity of Laurie Antonioli's voice is owed, not just to the impossible rangesome three octavesbut to vocalist's breathtaking ability to find the hidden quarter tones that sound between the so-called right ones. In suggesting that these notes she sings are "wrong," the idea of a Thelonious Monk-like reality emerges in Antonioli's singing. The elemental difference is one of rhythm: while Monk's was chopped and jagged, sly and askance, Antonioli's is smooth, with burgeoning glissandos that are forthright, yet unexpected; that follow a distinct melodic line, yet make surprising harmonic leaps. And while Antonioli may be a singer whose vocalizing takes magical routes through the diatonic scale, she is capableand proves time and time againthat she owns the diatonic scale as well. Antonioli enjoys loping across the expanse of the regular Western harmonic scale, but can, on a dime, turn her voice into that of a Hindustani vocalist negotiating a complex Indian raga.
American Dreams is filled with wonderful, chromatically ingenious examples of Antonioli's vocal brilliance, with the singer melting the artificial barriers set up to separate rather than unite music. She is an old soul who, restless at all times, meanders like a medieval apothecary in search of the magic potionin this case, the song with the most perfect tone and manner, or a tune of such breathtaking lyricism that it stops the very breath itself. In this regard, Antonioli constantly recalls the lyricism of the great Sufi masters, whose singing turned meditative and who became so entranced by the nature of their spiritualism that the art came to reside on a uniquely different plane. There are times when Antonioli gives the impression that she reaches a similar meditative state.
"Samba Nada Brahma" is just one of those songs, where Antonioli makes a Sufi-like leap with the elasticity of her vocals. The fact that she weaves the lyric in and out of a startling melody written by pianist Fritz Pauerone of four songs they wrote togetheris one of the bright spots on this album. The team of Pauer and Antonioli is a remarkable one: both musicians explore melody in great depth, and Antonioli, with masterful use of harmony, surpasses most vocalists in lyricism and depth of character. With a first rate band that includes multireedman Sheldon Brown and a bright young guitarist, Dave McNab, the ensemble provides plenty of room for Antonioli to undertake her extraordinary vocal journeys. "Vienna Blues" appears alongside the standard "Moonlight in Vermont," and it is impossible to tell that the two have been written with years between them, so breathtakingly beautiful is the classic lyricism of the former. And, in her superb version of "America The Beautiful," Antonioli undertakes a rite of passage for a vocalist, emerging almost heroic by the end of it all. As a vocalist, Antonioli displays the spark that always flies when Joni Mitchell takes to song.
Track Listing: Samba Nada Brahma; Vienna Blues; Moonlight in Vermont; How Long; Sweet Sound of Spring; Under Consideration; Stimulus Plan; America The Beautiful; Dreary Black Hills/Get Up And Go; Just A Dream; Oh, What A Beautiful Morning; Long Way From Home.
Personnel: Laurie Antonioli: vocals; Matt Clark: piano; John Schifflett: bass; Jason Lewis: drums; Sheldon Brown: soprano and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet, harmonica; Dave McNab: acoustic and electric guitars.