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Cinzia Spata: Into The Moment

Bruce Lindsay By

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Although Italian singer/lyricist Cinzia Spata has been singing professionally for over 20 years, her discography is pretty sparse. Into The moment is only her third album, and appears six years after 93 03 (Azzurramusic, 2005). The wait's been worth it: the album is a stylish mix of American Songbook classics and lesser-known tunes from some of jazz's most intriguing composers, plus one Spata original, the extraordinary "Carlos."

The quintet of backing musicians is top quality, an experienced and talented group of players who support the singer with understated grace but also stretch out on some imaginative and compelling solos. Dave Clark and Yoron Israel are at the core, with some terrific bass and drum work, respectively, while trumpeter Ken Cervenka and tenor saxophonist George Garzone form a frontline that weaves in and out of Spata's vocals. Pianist Bruce Barth moves effortlessly between rhythm section and lead playing.

Spata has worked with artists including Kenny Wheeler (whose "The Widow in the Window" appears here), Kurt Rosenwinkel and Danilo Rea. Many of the cover versions on this recording reflect this experience, drawn as they are from some unusual sources for vocal jazz. On Keith Jarrett's "Questar" Spata scats with invention and restraint, her melodic approach adding to this lovely tune's emotional impact, as do Barth, Cervenka and Clark's beautifully considered solos. Spata's voice is light and inviting on Charles Mingus' "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love," and Bill Evans' delightful "Very Early," perky and seductive on Ralph Towner's swinging "The Glide."

"Carlos" is a spiky, funky, tune with a stunning wordless vocal. Clark and Israel are the key figures, laying down a solid groove over which Spata swoops and flies, her voice telling a story even without a lyric. At the midway point she moves from a light-hearted scat to an extraordinarily tense and piercing wail and then a jagged staccato phrase—close, perhaps, to the territory usually inhabited by Norma Winstone or Julie Tippetts. It's an imaginative, bravura, performance.

Spata is a vocalist who can swing, scat or sing a ballad with style and enthusiasm. What gives her a fascinating edge is her willingness to explore a type of jazz tune that doesn't usually come into the vision of jazz singers, and to do so with great success. With the backing of a superb quartet, Into The Moment is a strong and accessible artistic statement.

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