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Five Women XII – Gabriele Trancina, Rondi Charleston, Julie Benko, Sarah Jerrom, Carol Welsman

C. Michael Bailey By

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Gabriele Trancina
Of Sailing Ships and the Stars in Your Eyes
Rainchant Eclectic Records
2017

Polyglot would be an appropriate descriptor for a German-born, Parisian chanteuse, with Brazilian stylings, who is considered a cross between Ute Lemper and Tania Maria. This is what we have in Gabriele Trancina, whose fourth release (and first since 2010), Of Sailing Ships and the Stars in Your Eyes, demonstrates the singer's firm grasp across styles, genre, and, yes, languages. Joined by husband and pianist Joe Vincent Trancina, who also provides the arrangements, and a fine rhythm section, Trancina provides an even dozen Brazilian-Latin infused original and standard selections. She sings in French ("Je Crois Entendre Encore"), Portuguese ("Vera Cruz"), and German ("Ein Alter Tibetteppich"). Trancina's singing is seamless flowing from one language to the next making this recording very much a World music recording. The singer's voice is singular and well-balanced, capable of low purrs and assertive exuberance. Refined and fine is Of Sailing Ships and the Stars in Your Eyes.

Rondi Charleston
Resilience
Self Produced
2017

Where Gabriele Trancina is a polyglot, Rondi Charleston is a polymath. Charleston has been, in turn, and actor and opera singer at Julliard, an investigative journalist at ABC, where she worked as a producer with Diane Sawyer, and presently, a jazz singer with now, six recordings to her credit. Her newest offering, Resilience is helmed by guitarist/music director Dave Stryker. Charleston has previously worked with pianist Lynne Arriale on several projects. What Stryker brings to the mix a muted funky vide that prevents the performances from being too rote perfect. The majority of the selections are Charleston/Stryker originals save for "Joy Spring," "The Sunny Side of the Street," and "I've Got the World on a String" by the usual suspects. Charleston is comfortable at all tempos, something she a Stryker like to tinker with. Neither fear throwing changeups with this music and they accomplish much in doing so. Forward-thinking and bold, Resilience offers much to many types of listeners.

Julie Benko, an actress, singer, song writer,
Introducing Julie Benko
Self Produced
2017

A debut recording, Introducing Julie Benko, brings to ear another polymath, Julie Benko, whose experience boasts acting for stage (Including Broadway) and screen, singing, and composing. She is a bit polyglot, with a certain fluency in Spanish, Italian, and Hebrew, a cultural mixture that lends Cole Porter's "Love for Sale" a certain multicultural panache. Benko and pianist/partner Jason Yeager craft from the Porter tune a melancholy tango infused with a hint of Eastern European charm from JP Jofre's bandoneon and Jason Anick's violin. Benko's recital also includes deft readings of Porter's "I love Paris" and the Paul/Mercer confections "Lonesome Polecat" and "Wonderful, Wonderful Day." Benko's take on John Denver's "Leaving on a Jet Plane" is plaintive and stark, as if the song was written by Tim Hardin for Karen Dalton. Benko's inclusion of the Fred Hersch/Norma Winstone composition "A Wish," does a proper homage to this standard-in-the-making. Brimming with a fresh creativity and youthful vitality, Introducing Julie Benko indeed introduces us to something...and someone special.

Sarah Jerrom
The Yeats Project
SOCAN
2016

Sarah Jerrom is a different kind of jazz musician, if, in fact, a jazz musician she is. Her debut recording, the self-produced Illuminations (2007), was a collection of original compositions, jazz-infused contemporary songs, and a smattering traditional jazz standards, was well received. Jerrom's vision is broader than the typical jazz vocalist's, pushing the envelope beyond jazz into the soft realm of "art music." And it is in art music that we find her sophomore effort, The Yeats Project, featuring all original musical compositions written for selected poems by Irish poet William Butler Yeats. Jerrom creates a string quartet—jazz quintet mashup (that nominally adds up to a chamber jazz orchestra) that works in the same crazy way that poetry does. Improvisation makes up a large part of the magic here and Jerrom's band reveals conservative discipline in dolling out that improvisation. Jazz and classical elements are well integrated and Jerrom's singing is assertive, reaching far stylistically.

Carol Welsman
Solo: For You
Welcar Music
2017 Canadian vocalist/pianist Carol Welsman has been recording since the 1995 release of Lucky to be Me (Welcar). Her most recent release prior to the present Solo: For You was the well-reviewed Alone Together Welcar, 2016), proves to be a durable collection of well-played standards performed eith a crack rhythmsection of bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Lewis Nash, joined by trumpeter Wallace Roney. Welsman eschews the band for a self-accompanied solo performance of sixteen standards, with a couple of surprises. Breezy and light is Welsman's method in singing and playing piano. She proves superior on ballads ("My Foolish Heart") when compared to upbeat numbers ("It had to be You") though both are enjoyable. Welsman is joined by guitarist Paulinho Garcia on the Brazilian/Latin fare: "Besame Mucho," "Corcovado," and "Garota De Ipanema." Here, Welsmans shines.

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