How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Calabria Foti is a sweet, sexy vocalist who sings 10 familiar songs with sultry finesse on this romantic debut. When A Woman Loves A Man is a concept album that traces a love affair from initial exhilaration ("I Hadn’t Anyone "Til You) through passionate times ("Fever"), troubled times ("I’m Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life"), and finally past a breakup ("By Myself"). It’s a classy mainstream effort featuring some excellent sidemen, including Foti’s talented husband Bob McChesney (trombone) and Tonight Show veteran Pete Christlieb (tenor sax).
On When A Woman Loves A Man, Foti communicates each tune's emotional essence without resorting to pretentious histrionics. Strings enhance three of the ballads, which bring to mind Linda Ronstandt's collaborations with Nelson Riddle. In fact, Foti's voice is somewhat similar to Ronstadt's, but with the timbre and control of a superior jazz stylist. The arrangements (by Foti and pianist Matt Harris) are tasteful, and include some smart solos. Foti plays violin on a lush version of "All The Way," while Christlieb again proves himself one of the most underrated tenor saxmen in jazz.
The most breathtaking track here is a tender treatment of Rogers and Hammerstein's "This Nearly Was Mine," which begins with Foti singing over Harris' soft piano before violins sweep in subtly. Up-tempo numbers like "I Hadn't Anyone 'Til You" and "A Fine Romance" swing with easy grace and some heady bop touches. Bassist Trey Henry and drummer Ray Brinker shine on a sensual version of "Fever."
Though it's not as slick a production, When A Woman Lives A Man is comparable to Natalie Cole's Unforgettable and Linda Ronstadt’s What’s New. The choice of material is similar, as are the romantic atmospherics and classy execution. With her bright, limber voice, Calabria Foti deserves widespread attention.