Roseanna Vitro is a soulful and creative storyteller with the power to captivate audiences or stimulate the minds of aspiring young artists. In concerts, or leading workshops, she breathes life and conviction into everything she sings.
Tell Me the Truth finds jazz vocalist Roseanna Vitro doing what she does best - refracting songs through the finely polished prism of her years. It is a soulful album, drawn from living, breathing and internalizing a rich array of musical cultures. Its essence is the surround sound of her youth, featuring songs written or popularized by Jon Hendricks, Allen Toussaint, Boz Scaggs. Mose Allison and the Everly Brothers, among others. They are newly imagined renditions, reborn with arrangements and group interplay that highlight Vitro’s penchant for musical colorization. It is the fourteenth recording in her distinguished catalog.
The album’s success owes much to the tight-knit band, collaborators all - pianist Mark Soskin, guitarist Mitch Stein, saxophonist Tim Ries, trumpeter Nate Ecklund, bassist Dean Johnson, drummer Rudy Royston, violinist Sara Caswell, and vocalists Kate McGarry and Cindy Scott. Soskin assumes the lion’s share of arranging credit, with sympathetic support from Vitro. They are a formidable team.
The mélange of musics informing Tell Me The Truth constitutes patchwork of a very high order - jazz meets pop, blues, gospel, r&b and country. The fact that Vitro crafted such a project comes as no surprise. She has freely drawn from the genres residing within her, channeling them with rhythmic vivacity and melodic invention. Her career has been characterized by an embrace of bold creative challenges. Here, she speaks loudly, echoing themes heard in previous projects, yet crystallized by the urgency of the times. She is an activist at root, using her art to open hearts and minds.
Vitro was born on February 28, 1951 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. She is the product of two distinct cultural strains: Her father, who ran the Flamingo nightclub, divided his music affinities between the pluck of Frank Sinatra and the homeland finery of Italian opera. Her mother sang country and gospel songs by way of the church.
A child of the ‘60s, Roseanna gravitated to Houston in pursuit of the blues and rock of her idols: Lightning Hopkins, Johnny Winter, Bonnie Raitt and Tracy Nelson. This music proved foundational for her development. She was encouraged to delve deep into jazz, ultimately living the music as protégé to Texas tenor man Arnett Cobb and singer-educator Ray Sullenger.
Her own bands followed, chief among them, “Roseanna with Strings and Things,” which enjoyed a two-year run at the Green Room. There, she jammed with a host of heavyweights, including Oscar Peterson, Tommy Flanagan and Bill Evans. Her popularity grew, powered by live radio, where she hosted and presented touring luminaries.
In 1978 she moved to New York, determined to work with the city’s best, most inspiring musicians. She didn’t search long. Pianists Fred Hersch and Kenny Werner soon became stalwart collaborators, each helping her shape a winning persona. Entertainment legend Steve Allen discovered her as well. Tours and a recording followed, including The Time of My Life: The Songs of Steve Allen, recorded in 1986.
Hersch wrote arrangements for her 1985 debut release, Listen Here, featuring the contributions of Kenny Barron, Buster Williams, and Ben Riley, alongside guest tenorist Cobb. A breakthrough ensued leading to Vitro’s emergence as a singular artist - the1987 recording, A Quiet Place. Reinforcement of that fact followed, again with help from Hersch, via her 1994 record Softly, and then 2001’s Conviction (Thoughts of Bill Evans).
Werner worked with her on 1991’s Reaching for the Moon, 1996’s Passion Dance (her major label debut for Telarc), 2004’s Catchin’ Some Rays tribute to Ray Charles, 2004’s Tropical Postcards, 2006’s Live at The Kenny Center, and 2008’s The Delirium Blues Project: Serve or Suffer, a supercharged live recording featuring the horns of James Carter, Ray Anderson and Randy Brecker.
Vitro’s steady climb of albums reached a zenith in 2011 with The Music of Randy Newman, a Grammy nominated issue on the Motema label. Her signature treatment of Newman’s wry narratives summoned plaudits from the esteemed composer himself. The album featured for the first time Vitro’s core group - Soskin, Johnson, Caswell and Tim Horner. They proved winning and collaborative, setting the stage for subsequent explorations.
So much so, they banded again to serve Vitro’s adventurous ways in Clarity, The Music of Clare Fischer, a project owing all to the multi-cultural influences of the great composer and Vitro’s love of melody-rich songs. Vitro aimed high and hit her mark. She created a fresh vocal book of Fischer’s work, sculpting song-form adaptations of his music with newly crafted lyrics.
In recent years Vitro has distinguished herself as an educator, clinician and columnist. Her work with young singers has helped launch jazz’s next generation, while her writings and interviews in Jazz Times - bannered as Voices In Jazz - illuminate the magic (and hard work) behind the greatest vocalists of our times. Additionally, her website-blog JVoice reaches a global audience of vocalists and those who support the art of singing.
In the 360 of jazz performance, recording and pedagogy, Vitro remains an undying beacon. What was once a career driven by a down-home need to sing has become a cause: Tell the truth through song. With all she does, she burns bright.
My Jazz Story
I have loved jazz since I was turned on to it at the age of 21 in Houston.
I was first exposed to jazz by Ray Sullenger, Arnett Cobb, Bobby Henschen, and Tom Clarkson.
I have worked with and met so many great musicians since discovering the music of Ella, Oscar, Joe, Sarah, Mel, Carmen, Flora, on and on... lucky me.
The best show I ever attended was Ella at Carnegie Hall.
The first jazz record I bought was Bill Evans and Tony Bennett.
My advice to new listeners is to check out the history of jazz.
My House Concert Story
I have many stories and house concerts are generally the best! A group of music lovers who support the music and each other. That's the best! R
- Segovia-Any of his albums
- Ivan Lins
- John Coltrane
- Sarah Vaughn
- Nancy, Ella, Carmen, Joe Williams, Mel...
- Michael McDonald
- Paul Simon