Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has provided the jazz world dozens of legendary artists, including Mary Lou Williams, Billy Strayhorn, Roy Eldridge, Art Blakey, Ahmad Jamal, Eddie Jefferson, Maxine Sullivan, Billy Eckstine, Errol Garner, Earl "Fatha" Hines, and drummer Jeff Watts. In Pittsburgh, Duquesne University has ushered graduates Tim Eyermann, Paul McCandless, Lori Russo, and Eric Kloss into the field of jazz, as well as fostering an appropriate environment through numerous teachers, including Emily Remler, Frank Cunimondo, and Dr. John Wilson.
With just a touch of vibrato, well-trained vocal chops, a natural talent for working the lyric, and a stellar supporting ensemble, singer Lori Russo enjoys sharing with an audience. Background information and photographs may be found at http://www.telerama.com/~jazzrus . Four of the tracks on this session are supported by a big band led and arranged by Dr. Wilson, founder of Duquesne's Jazz Studies program in 1972 and currently a professor of theory, ear training, harmony, and improvisation. The other ten numbers are supported by the Frank Cunimondo trio; this pianist has worked with Urbie Green, Frank Rosolino, Lou Donaldson, Josh Redman, Jimmy Witherspoon, taught piano at Duquesne, and now teaches at the University of Pittsburgh.
The title track, "It's You, It's Me" was written by Russo and features her own guitar accompaniment with the piano trio and her voice. Cole Porter's "Love For Sale" features varied rhythmic patterns from Wilson's big band arrangement for a rather special and interesting approach behind Russo's emotionally-charged delivery. For the most part, however, the singer's delivery is devoid of overt expression and relies instead on her vocal skills. In several places, where the lyrics express an honestly joyful message, such as "I'm In Love Again," and "The More I See You," it would seem that the lyrics would be better served with an upbeat tone. Not unlike the dry, detached delivery of June Christy, Russo's performance is quite refreshing for its singular attitude and, of course, for her musicianship. For emotional soul, "Love For Sale" has the most to offer, with a big band arrangement to complement the singer's delivery. Cunimondo's trio arrangement of "Poinciana" is quite unique, in that the classic and familiar "Poinciana beat" is implied, rather than stated directly. Drummer Dan Muchoney, relying mostly on tom-toms, and bassist Dave Pellow work together to offer just enough of the classic rhythm that forces the listener to supply the remainder mentally, and automatically. The excellent song selection and varied ensemble arrangements make this an enjoyable listen, and hopefully a sign that there are many more to come.