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Josie Falbo: You Must Believe in Spring


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: Josie Falbo: You Must Believe in Spring
The first moments of Josie Falbo's You Must Believe in Spring sweep us into a lush soundscape, through a cinematic introduction, up close and intimately to her marvelous voice. Her voice is full, rich and pure top to bottom, fluid and shapely as anything imaginable, imparting true faith into lyrics valuing a lifetime's experience, acceptance, appreciation and hope. Josie Falbo gives voice to a heartening message, that like all 13 selections here issue sincerely from the glorious musical gifts she maintains Midwestern modesty about, but which she happily shares.

"I decided I was going to do songs that have always intrigued me, that are challenging and beautiful, songs that appeal to me and speak to me," says Ms. Falbo, a 35-year-career/life-long vocalist, of her second album on Chicago's Southport label. It follows by a decade her revelatory debut, Taylor Street. "I'm drawn to melodies that aren't necessarily linear, not step-by-step things but are interesting and still beautiful." Throughout this album she enhances artful compositions' interesting bits, and realizes fresh aspects of beauty's multi-faceted potential.

Where Taylor Street was testimony to Falbo's authenticity across a range of genres — from finger-snappers to "Ave Maria," arena-rock anthems, soulful quiet storm and the gospel rave "O Happy Day"—You Must Believe is an hour of modern day jazz art that encompasses varied but centered emotional territory. The album's ballads, bossa novas and bebop, arranged and produced to fit Falbo perfectly by Carey Deadman, recorded and mixed mostly by Jim Massoth in sectional sessions that spanned three-and-a-half years, feature a full orchestra (50 strong!), with a sensitive rhythm section and some of Chicago's finest soloists for instrumental highlights.

It's a labor of love, and as Josie sings so compellingly, a celebratory testament to the pleasures of an American popular music style that's long-established, remains evergreen and open to such an original artist's stamp. Of precedents or models for recordings of a jazz voice so plushly couched, she cites the Ella Fitzgerald songbooks, the Sinatra/Nelson Riddle catalog, Cleo Laine with Johnny Dankworth's ensemble, June Christy with Stan Kenton, and works of Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, and Anita O'Day, among others. This project's on that level, much credit to Deadman's composerly skills and imagination, to Falbo's ease in performance and unaffected warmth.

She sets an album benchmark from the start, and enthuses about the source material: "With music by Michel Legrand, words by Jacques Demy, Marilyn and Alan Bergman—you can't go wrong!" But one smash track follows another. Hear her assured scat on "A Night in Tunisia," Dizzy Gillespie's leapingest of bebop lines. Catch her pleased-with-herself-laugh after she's aced Jon Hendrick's tongue-twisting words to Clifford Brown's exuberant "Joy Spring." Josie caresses Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing" tenderly, engaging in an intricate dance with pianist Jeremy Kahn, and turns positively giddy on "A Sleepin' Bee," Harold Arlen and Truman Capote's collaboration. She maps Richard Rodgers/Lorenzo Hart's "Manhattan" as someone who knows the town, floats through Duke Ellington's "Heaven" with ethereal grace, and tosses off the rhythmically delightful "Just You, Just Me" with inviting zeal.

Like all fine vocalists, Josie is instinctively an actress, finding within herself means to embody her material's essences and nuances. Her emotional range, like her octave range, is wide and pure. She tells the stories of "Midnight at the Starlight Haunted Ballroom" as if the way-back-when references mean something to her—because they do. She elicits the bossa saudade of "Estate" ("Summer") in voluptuous Italian—the first language of her Calabrian parents and her influential older sister ("named Caterina, but I couldn't say that, so I called her 'Tataleen'), who as a child sang on the radio.

Having raised two musical sons while working as a jingle singer for decades after being encouraged as a schoolgirl by her mother and a nun, starting professionally in rock-pop cover bands, weddings and bar mitzvahs and continuing to gig to this day in Chicago-area clubs, Josie seems to be über-responsible, hardly "Devil May Care" — except perhaps when singing Bob Dorough's witty hit. With the drama of "'Tis Autumn" she returns us to the reflective mood with which You Must Believe in Spring begins—but provides welcome release via the earthy exuberance of the samba "Tristeza" (in Portuguese, "sadness," written by Brazilians Nilton de Souza and Haroldo Lobo to banish the blues).

"I always thought, 'Oh gosh, it would be so much fun to record with a full orchestra,'" Josie Falbo says—and now she's done it. Now we have it. It's been a long time coming, but the best things often are. It proves worth the wait, like the perennials budding after a long, cold, dreary winter. It's just as the singer avows: "You must believe in spring."

Liner Notes copyright © 2023 Howard Mandel.

You Must Believe In Spring can be purchased here.

Howard Mandel Contact Howard Mandel at All About Jazz.
Howard is a Chicago-born writer, editor, author, arts reporter for National Public Radio, consultant and videographer. Visit Howard at howardmandel.com.

Track Listing

You Must Believe In Spring; A Night in Tunisia; Joy Spring; A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing; A Sleepin' Bee; Manhattan; Heaven; Just You, Just Me; Midnight at the Starlight Haunted Ballroom; Estate; Devil May Care; Tis Autumn; Tristeza.


Josie Falbo: voice / vocals; Carey Deadman: arranger; Jeremy Kahn : piano; Mark Colby: saxophone; Jim Gailloreto: saxophone, tenor; Dave Onderdonk: guitar; Ernie Denov: guitar; Roger Ingram: trumpet; Rob Parton: trumpet; Andy Baker: trombone; Mike Smith: saxophone; Jim Massoth: saxophone.

Album information

Title: You Must Believe In Spring | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Southport Records

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