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April Aloisio shows she's more than just another singer with a pretty voice on her new Southport CD, Easy to Love. The Chicago-area vocalist has a confidence, patience and knowledge of how to get to the heart of a song that puts her in the upper tier of jazz vocalists.
Aloisio is no shouter, and most of the songs on Easy to Love are quiet, moody ballads that she delivers in her lovely soparano voice over small-ensemble backing. She lends a cool Brazilian touch to several of the tunes here, especially an inspired reading of Jobim's "Double Rainbow" and a wordless scat version of Horace Silver's "Song for My Father." She also gives a does a nice job translating some pop tunes into jazz settings, including Stevie Wonder's "Another Star" and "Here Without You," a song by Gene Clark of the '60s folk-rock group the Byrds.
The standout players joining Aloisio include guitarists Dave Onderdonk and Fareed Haque, pianist Steve Million, and, most notably, Chicago saxophone legend Von Freeman. Along with a beautiful duet of voice and tenor sax on Cole Porter's "Night and Day," Freeman also sits in on piano on Porter's "Easy to Love." Suffice it to day that Freeman, one of the great underappreciated jazz performers of his generation, sounds like a saxophonist playing piano.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.