Add to the list of endangered species: decent recording engineers. Where have they gone? Where is a good one when you need him, as on this new release by vocalist Angela DeNiro and an all-star supporting cast? Perhaps it's only me, but everyone seems to be coming through loud and clear with one exceptionthe headliner herself, who's too often buried beneath a clamorous instrumental barrage. All the more puzzling as the album was co-produced by DeNiro's husband, alto saxophonist Ron Aprea; one would assume that he'd do his best to keep the spotlight shining brightly on the vocalist.
From what I can hearon the balladsDeNiro's a pretty good jazz singer whose mannerisms (yes, everyone has them) don't often overshadow the lyrics. If her elocution seems smudged and out of focus at swifter tempos, some of that may have to do with her soft, whisper-like alto being outmuscled by the supporting cast in an uneven mix that places her at a disadvantage. Fortunately for the listener, the tempo slows considerably after the first three numbers, shifting into high gear only for Clifford Brown's "Joy Spring, much of Jerome Kern's "All the Things You Are and the closing "Satchmo's Samba, which she and Aprea co-wrote.
Besides the songs already mentioned, the program consists of seven standards, Aprea's "For Phil (Woods), a lovely ballad by Sergio Mihanovich ("Sometime Ago ) and the breezy "Maybe You'll See Me by Rodgers Grant and Sonny Rossi. DeNiro gives each of them a pleasant reading, and her well-rehearsed scatting adds a freewheeling touch on several tunes. There are a number of brief but engaging solos by Aprea, pianist Cecilia Coleman, trumpeter Don Sickler and trombonist Scott Whitfield, who joins DeNiro for a vocal duet on "Joy Spring.
A respectable album that could have been better had DeNiro been backed by a trio instead of the much larger group, whose presence is on the whole more intrusive than productive.
My Shining Hour; Surrey with the Fringe on Top; For Phil;
Angela DeNiro: vocals; Don Sickler, Mike Carubia (4,10): trumpet; Ron Aprea: alto sax, flute;
Scott Whitfield: trombone; Cecilia Coleman: piano; Tom Givens: bass; Jim Young: drums
(1-10); George Hooks: percussion (1-10), drums (11); Batya McAdam-Somer, Margie Janke,
Matt Aprea: violin; David Medine: viola; Jessie Marino, Jason Mooney: cello.
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