Roberta Gambarini and Convergence
Februay 6, 2010 (First Set)
Roberta Gambarini played Denver last year with a piano trio. She returned in early February this year for a three night stand with double the support, backed this time by the six piece Convergence. Gambarini can carry a show with minimal backing, but the high powered Convergence added considerable texture, variety and plain old fun.
Gambarini had just left Los Angeles where she attended the Grammy Awards because her album from 2009, So in Love was nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album. She ended up losing to Kurt Elling and his album Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman. I'm glad I didn't have to choose between those two, because they're both outstanding. Saturday night, she performed a couple tunes from her album: "Day In, Day Out" and "You Ain't Nothin' But a JAMF."
The trick with a singer backed by a band with several horns is for the horns to avoid overpowering the singer. That only happened once or twice when the whole band was playing and Gambarini was singing at the same time. Otherwise, they all did a good job staying out of each other's way. On several occasions, Gambarini traded licks with each horn player in turn, with the singer scatting and the horns answering.
Gambarini has a powerful voice, but at the same time exudes a delicacy and intimacy allowing her to wring a maximum amount of emotion from a lyric. She has a multi-octave range and remarkable control which all adds up to a delightful performance.
The set was generally straight ahead swingin' jazz with a couple poignant ballads adding a nice contrast. A highlight of the set was the bluesy "You Ain't Nothin' But a JAMF," a tune written by Johnny Griffin with lyrics by Gambarini. She explained that JAMF is an acronym with the J standing for "Jive" and the M for "Mother." She left the A and the F for the imagination.
Gambarini's connection to Convergence is through pianist Eric Gunnison with whom she's worked for several years and who appears on several tracks on last year's CD. Convergence is, mostly, a Denver-area based band. An exception is trombonist Mark Patterson who teaches at NYU and last year toured with Steely Dan. The balance of the players, although based in Colorado, have played across the country and around the world with just about anybody who is (or was) anybody in jazz.
Gambarini is not only fun to listen to, she's pretty easy on the eyes too. Shortly after the show started, a late arrival sat down in front of the fellow next to me. The late comer apologized to those behind him and my neighbor replied, "It's OK, we're just here to listen." Every male within earshot of that comment snorted in unison.
Set List: Opening Instrumental, Day In Day Out, No More Blues, Our Love is Here to Stay,Deep Purple/Poor Butterfly, You Ain't Nothin' But a JAMF, Porgy and Bess Medley, On the Sunny Side of Street.
The Band: Roberta Gambarini, vocals; Eric Gunnison, piano; Mark Simon, bass; Paul Romaine, drums; John Gunther, sax, flute; Mark Patterson, trombone; Greg Gisbert, trumpet.