With the seemingly steady rise of interest in traditional American popular song, the result has been a treasure trove of CD reissues, a Renaissance of careers of more seasoned veteran performers, and the appearance of many new singers who draw upon the repertoire and inspiration of the Great American Songbook. Along with the work of veterans such as Weslia Whitfield, the recently late Rosemary Clooney, and relative newcomers such as Stacey Kent, another traditional pop songstress has arrived.
Pentimento, the new CD by Jessica Molaskey primarily mines the rare ore of songs from the era between the World Wars. Molaskey, and an impressive supporting cast including husband John, and father-in-law Bucky Pizzarelli, provide more than a mere recasting of this music. Instead of a stylized recreation by a repertoire-type ensemble, Molaskey and her assemblage, which also includes the clarinet of Ken Peplowski and the violin of Johnny Frigo, unearth a fresh, lightly swinging perspective that uncovers the sheer underlying beauty of these older songs. Molaskey performs the Eubie Blake/Noble Sissle classic “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” as a ballad rather than in its more familiar up-tempo version. As a ballad, a new tenderness of the lyric and the heartfelt emotion of this song come through like the beauty of aged wood grain hidden under stripped away old varnish. Another interesting twist is the inclusion of the seldom-heard verse to the song “Oh, You Beautiful Doll.” Molaskey’s voice is enchanting as she interprets songs such as “You Made Me Love You,” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” Her version of “Look for the Silver Lining,” even rivals the delicate rendition recorded by Chet Baker in the 1950’s.
Molaskey also demonstrates her writing talents with her added lyrics to Irving Berlin’s “Oh, How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning,” and original songs “I Tried Too Hard For Too Long,” and “Sail Away” co-written with husband John Pizzarelli. Molaskey also includes one song not from the 20th century. Her version of Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer,” reveals the sentimental essence of this old chestnut.
The recording quality of Pentimento is superb. The musicians assembled for the session represent top shelf talent. The quality of the sound is crystal clear with Molaskey’s very precise diction perfectly balanced with the accompanying instruments. For fans of traditional popular song and/or just fun sounding swinging music Pentimento is highly recommended as an addition to one’s CD collection.
Track Listing: Oh You Beautiful Doll, I'm Just Wild About Harry, Ain't We Got Fun, What'll I Do, With Plenty Of Money And You/We're In The Money, Waitin' For The Train To Come In, Red Red Robin, By The Beautiful Sea, I'm Always Chasing Rainbows, Oh How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning, You Made Me Love You, I Tried Too Hard For Too Long, When I Lost You, Look For the Silver Lining, I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Beautiful Dreamer, Sail Away
Personnel: Jessica Molaskey, vocals; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar and uke; John Pizzarelli, guitar, uke and additional vocals; Martin Pizzarelli, bass; Larry Goldings, piano; Ray Kennedy, piano; Johnny Frigo, violin; Ken Peplowski, clarinet; Tony Tedesco, brushes on phone book; Jesse Levy, cello.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.