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Roberta Gambarini: Making Listeners Fall 'So In Love'

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It's been an out-of-the-ordinary career trip for Roberta Gambarini—a trip that's seen her go from a young girl in Italy, scatting along with records by American singers Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
1901 - 1971
trumpet
and Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
1917 - 1996
vocalist
, to struggling to get singing gigs in her native land, to grabbing an opportunity to come to the United States, to gaining recognition by respected elders like Benny Carter
Benny Carter
Benny Carter
1907 - 2003
sax, alto
, James Moody
James Moody
James Moody
1925 - 2010
reeds
, Clark Terry
Clark Terry
Clark Terry
b.1920
trumpet
and nonagenarian pianist Hank Jones, who has proclaimed her "the best jazz singer to emerge in sixty years."

She was accepted into certain jazz circles over a decade ago, and doors opened, even if slowly at first. But always behind that acceptance was a natural, exceptional talent, without which she wouldn't have opened certain ears and eyes— and doors—in the first place. She's blossomed, since coming to the United States in 1998, into one of the very best singers out there. She owns a wonderful instrument: her vocal cords, displaying power and nuance, rich textures and flexibility. And she's always working on how to convey a song with the right feeling and tell a story. It's important to her.

Conveying the song with meaning, making it special in some way to the listener, is the difference between artists and entertainers. Add to those qualities Gambarini's vocal magic, and the musical trips she takes listeners on become even more personal and delightful.

There are few artists of her quality, with complete musicianship along with that kind of vocal instrument, out there.

In her short recording career, Gambarini has produced music of consistently dazzling quality. She was nominated for a Grammy on her debut, Easy to Love (Groovin' High, 2006). Her second, a duet album with Hank Jones

Hank Jones
Hank Jones
1918 - 2010
piano
, You Are There (Groovin' High/Emarcy, 2007), is an exemplary model of singer/pianist grace and elegance. (Grammys, where were you?) Released over the summer was So In Love (Groovin' High/Emarcy 2009), putting Gambarini in settings ranging from duet to quintet. It's a fine addition to her discography and shows her getting better yet.

She's also found on two big band recordings released this year, Roy Hargrove

Roy Hargrove
Roy Hargrove
b.1969
trumpet
's Emergence (Groovin' High/Emarcy, 2009) and I'm BeBoppin' Too (Half Note Records, 2009) with the Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
All-Star Big Band. So it's been a busy year for the singer, who took awhile to get her first album released. Now her growing list of fans eagerly awaits the next one.

The new record shows her in full command, whether on ballads like the sumptuous title cut and the delicious "Over the Rainbow," or on swingers like "That Old Black Magic"' and "From This Moment On." She also takes on some The Beatles

The Beatles
The Beatles

band/orchestra
music, and takes a touching stroll through the Patsy Cline hit "Crazy." Yet another side of this sassy singer is the jazzy blues "You Ain't Nothin' But a JAMF," with a lyric she wrote to a melody penned by sax great Johnny Griffin
Johnny Griffin
Johnny Griffin
1928 - 2008
sax, tenor
. It's a gas, showing her scat powers and also how she can get down and funky. (Griffin died in 2008 and is one of three Gambarini friends to whom the album is dedicated, the others being Ronnie Matthews and David "Fathead" Newman
David
David "Fathead" Newman
1933 - 2009
sax, tenor
, who died in 2008 and 2009, respectively).

Roberta GambariniBeatles songs may seem an odd choice from a girl from Turin, but she does a fine job with "Golden Slumbers/Here There and Everywhere" blended together. "Those are famous songs," she says. "I even heard Carmen McRae

Carmen McRae
Carmen McRae
1920 - 1994
vocalist
(McRae) sing 'Golden Slumbers" live many years ago. I knew the Beatles and the songs. There's a good version by George Benson also. [The Other Side of Abbey Road (A&M, 1969)]. So I was familiar with the tunes from many points of view."

Of the Patsy Cline hit, Gambarini notes it is "something I got hip to when I moved to the States. Strangely enough, Patsy Cline is not known in Italy. The great Willie Nelson is not a household name. It's known by people with a certain special interest. But you don't hear a lot of Willie or Merle Haggard on the radio (in Italy). That, too, was something new that I discovered when I moved here."

"I See Your Face Before Me" reveals a Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
1915 - 1998
vocalist
influence, a song she was hearing in her head leading up to the recording session. She says she particularly likes Sinatra 's way with ballads, "But I also remember Johnny Hartman
Johnny Hartman
Johnny Hartman
1923 - 1983
vocalist
's version that he did with John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
[John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (Impulse!, 1963)]. And Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
[Davis, The Musings of Miles (Prestige, 1955)]. It's a song that has had a lot of treatments from jazz."

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