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Letizia Gambi: Blue Monday

James Nadal By

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As the world continues to shrink—musically speaking of course—the melding of American jazz with Mediterranean melody is another spin cycle that makes appreciation of this evolving art form so interesting. With high expectations, Neapolitan vocalist Letizia Gambi, which hails from a theatrical family, and has extensive jazz education, releases Blue Monday, an exuberant and ambitious production that takes jazz on a romantic Italian holiday.

After a collaboration with drummer extraordinaire Lenny White in 2009 led to "Introducing Letizia Gambi," (2012 Jando Music), White returns to the producers' chair for this project, with premier jazz players called in for good measure. Leading the list is virtuosic bassist Ron Carter, who needs no introduction, and adds a hefty weight of credibility and affluence. Alternating on bass duties is John Benitez, and Helen Sung is the principal pianist.

The set opens with a dramatic flair on "Sweet Georgia Brown/Dig," where Gambi starts and ends with Neapolitan chanting, adding a festive zest to the piece. Pianist Donald Vega and guitarist Dave Stryker join Ron Carter on "True Love, Remember Me," a mainstream tune by Joe Henderson which White and Gambi embellished with lyrics. Carter is back to anchor the melancholy ballad "Without You/Senz'e Te," and the Gershwin standard "But Not For Me."

The album hinges upon "Blue Monday," an original composition, and opulent interpretation of Mediterranean jazz, dripping with romantic insinuations, which Gambi delivers with genuine sultriness. Having John Benitez on this track was a wise move, as he provides the authentic touch required. Amy Winehouse is given recognition on "Back To Black," reworked as a lovers lamentation, in a tango configuration. In keeping with a tango groove, "Skin To Skin," is highlighted by the acoustic guitar of Tom Guarna, with a soft accordion background provided by Gil Goldstein.

Gambi's dominant heritage rises up in "You'll Say Tomorrow," an English translation of "Perché Domani," an Italian classic, and on "Sulo Pé Parla," where she is accompanied by the solo guitar of Nick Moroch. "Perché Domani," is reprised, only this time with its' original Italian lyrics, for an appropriate closure to a most intriguing repertoire.

Letizia Gambi, since she was a child, has been in a state of perpetual preparation as a singer. And as many before her, was attracted to American music, specifically jazz, as her talent began to blossom. Amore, in all its manifestations, has been an Italian mainstay forever, and an obvious natural setting for Gambi. Procuring and securing, such capable accompanists, is a testament to her artistic skills, as well as her tenacity. The fusion of Italian and American cultures is certainly not new, but with Blue Monday, the curious conception of Neapolitan jazz makes for cultivated listening.

Track Listing: Sweet Georgia Brown/Dig; True Love Remember Me; Without You/Senz’e Te; Que Sera Sera; Under the Moon; But Not For Me; Blue Monday; back To Black; You’ll Say Tomorrow/Perché Domani; When You Were Here; Skin To Skin; Suo Pe’ Parla; Perché Domani.

Personnel: : Letizia Gambi: vocals; Lenny White: drums; Helen sung: piano (1, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13); John Benitez: bass (1, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10); Andrea Valentini: bass drum (1); Dave Stryker: guitar (2); Donald Vega: piano (2, 3, 6); Ron Carter: bass (2, 3, 6); Tom Guarna: guitar (4, 11); Gil Goldstein: accordion (4, 5, 11) piano (11); Pete Levin: keyboards (4); Hailey Niswanger: saxophone (4); Daryl Johns: bass (4, 11); Sam Williams: backing vocals (7); Nick Moroch: AC Guitar (7, 10, 12); Josoo Ok: cello (7, 8, 9, 10, 13); Hector Del Curto: bandoneon (8).

Title: Blue Monday | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Artist Share

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