Tony Messina: This is What I Am (1999)

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Consisting of new and old entries in the Great American Songbook, vocalist Tony Messina’s debut spans a range of styles. It catches the subtle spice of Jobim's "One Note Samba" (including a clever piano sampling of "The Summer Knows"), mellows into the Gershwins' remorseful "Isn't It a Pity," changes tempo for "Come Rain or Come Shine," swings into a bouncy take on Van Morrison's romantic plead "Moondance" and takes a fiery jungle tour through Harold Arlen's "Old Black Magic" (complete with a Sinatra and Dorsey-esque full-swing coda), taking the listener through a gambit of emotions and styles along the way.

The only constant, it seems, is Messina's talent and care in each and every performance. Every note is considered yet free. Every song digs into its own story and lets it fly. Such is especially the case with Messina's own compositions. From the cabaret opener "Wonders of the World" to the emotional title track and the more up-tempo (though no less meaningful) "It's a Loving World," Messina fits himself at least near the Songbook pantheon. While somewhat reminiscent, Messina's lyrics add a freshness and energy often lost and laid stale in these great old standards, revealing and building upon their inner secrets.

Record Label: R&M

Style: Vocal

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