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Alexis Cole: Zingaro (2007)

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Alexis Cole: Zingaro How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

On this Toronto-based (but New York-born) vocalist's second release, she takes on several familiar standards with a personal signature, enhanced by a sparse instrumentation: here, she is accompanied solely by guitarist Ron Affif and bassist Jeffry Eckels, who play on all the tracks but the two Cole originals, the upbeat "Walkin' and "Morning With You, both of which feature fine work by Saul Rubin (guitar) and John Roche (bass).

The album's title, which means "gypsy, is taken from a classic tune by Brazilian composers Chico Buarque de Hollanda and Antonio Carlos Jobim, with new English lyrics by Roger Schore, who was on hand at the jam-packed CD release concert at New York's Zinc Bar in July, 2007, where Cole showcased material from the disc with Affif and Eckels. The tune, originally called "Portrait in Black and White (the only one played from a bossa nova point of view), reflects the singer's peripatetic lifestyle—in the past few years, she has traveled extensively through South America on a music program with the Berklee College of Music, and has barely kept a permanent mailing address.

One of the disc's highlights is "Stompin' At The Savoy, which Cole cleverly chose to open her set with at the Zinc Bar. The Benny Goodman swing, originally for big band, becomes something much subtler in her hands. On "Baby Ain't I Good To You she takes advantage of the song's simple bluesy structure to suit her own interests. "Over The Rainbow might be a little overplayed, but Cole sings it from the heart, drawing from an earlier experience with the tune while she was working with special education students in North Carolina, as was explained during the concert.

Zingaro is a fine opportunity to discover this singer and 2007 Jazzmobile Vocal Competition winner, who sets herself apart from your average jazz vocalist by taking on various sonic influences without veering too far from jazz. The sparse instrumentation allows the listener to focus on the individual talents of the musicians without distractions. It is a disc that will please purists and more adventurous listeners alike.

Track Listing: Stompin' at the Savoy; God Bless the Child; Morning with You; Over the Rainbow; 5 Sweet Lorraine; Body and Soul; Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You; Zingaro; I Thought About You; Walkin'.

Personnel: Alexis Cole: Ron Affif: guitar; Jeffry Eckels: bass; Saul Rubin: guitar; Jon Roche: bass.

Record Label: Canopy Jazz

Style: Vocal


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