It wasn't so much about "Learning How to Fly," as the opening track has it, as it was apparent that Clivia Tanisi still knew how to navigate in space. Tanisi took a twenty-year sabbatical to be a mom and raise her children. Singing proved to be like riding a bike, as she grooved into her lane, and fell in time with the other bikers. These were no weekend joy riders that Tanisi was pedaling with either. With drummer Dave Weckl, bassist Tom Kennedy, saxophonist Bob Franceschini and pianist George Whitty pacing the set, it was more akin to an Olympic cycling team. With a slice of Latin in the Whitty arrangement, Tanisi vocalized the sassiness of Eliane Elias and the clarity of Randy Crawford.
Whitty, indeed, arranged all five pieces on this EP designed to give us a taste of Tanisi's multi-layered skill set. A prime example of that follows with the Bee Gees' "Love You Inside Out." A version so vividly reimagined, it bears little resemblance to the original. Tanisi is bright with joy and at the same time substantial with her phrasing. The band is more upbeat and truly pops. Together they have a fun and engaging romp.
Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" has a lot of feelings and personal emotion captured in it. The song became a symbol of Tanisi's love and bond with her children and other extended family members. That multiplies dramatically when you realize that Tanisi and Weckl have been husband and wife for the past ten years. So, yes, Weckl brought even more than his world-class drumming to the project. This record became highly personal and very special for the entire family. Tanisi beautifully unharnessed her heartfelt sincerity with the playfulness and fun of family. The song takes on even more character with a soulful yet effervescent tenor sax solo from Franceschini.
That taste of versatility referred to comes a calling with Bill Withers "Grandma's Hands" performed as a vocal/bass duo by Tanisi and Kennedy. A rich thick bass sound has long been known as one of Kennedy's many fortes. Here, he starts out solo with a richness that penetrates early, builds more edge along the way, and never lets go. Guided by the rhythmic path, Tanisi pours out her emotions and weaves them through the wealth of spirited inspiration. The sitting on the back porch with the night flies feel is brought down home even further with Tanisi's bluesy scatting.
By far the most serious and soulful song of the EP is followed with a bright, light and bouncy take on "The Smiling Hour." Probably best known as sung by the great Sarah Vaughan, this song lends itself to many styles and arrangements. Whitty's entry sparkles, as does Tanisi's charismatic glow and natural flow. A good EP should leave you wanting more. With any luck, Tanisi Two won't be too long in arriving.
Learning How to Fly; Love You Inside Out; Let's Stay Together; Grandma's Hands; The Smiling Hour.
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