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A glance at the set list for Gia Notte's Shades might initially elicit concern about another album of standards. However, fresh arrangements, a solid band, and a charming voice can make a tremendous difference between a ho-hum effort and something that warrants attention.
Notte, born Margie but using the nickname Gia, began with piano and voice training at 12. She later developed a taste for performing in various genres. Her debut release, Just You, Just Me, and Friends Live at Cecil's (Gnote, 2009) was recorded at Cecil's Jazz Club in West Orange, N.J., in 2008.
"Caravan" has been around since 1927, but it's rare to hear anyone sing the lyrics, as it's usually an instrumental. The slower tempo adds to the feeling of a trek across the desert. Guy Notte's sultry alto is soothing. Don Braden solos on flute, and Freddie Hendrix on flugelhorn.
Braden's tenor introduces an upbeat, though still moody, "My Funny Valentine." Notte's earthy alto gives the piece a rich texture. Though the melody is sad, the play of Jason Teborek, Tom DiCarlo, and Cecil Brooks III brightens the overall mood.
A blues shuffle accompanies "Since I Fell for You." Notte's ability to sustain here and slip in a roulade there tempts a comparison to the cover Al Jarreau recorded with pianist Bob James and saxophonist David Sanborn. This rendition, however, is livelier, enhanced by Brandon McCune's solo.
With Hendrix's trumpet setting the tone, "Lover, Come Back to Me" has a Dixieland flavor. Though Notte sings of longing, her tone and style reflect her joy of singing. Teborek's solo and Brooks's crisp stick work add to the feel.
Shades is a promising outing from Notte. The band scores well as a group, and the soloists are in excellent form.
Caravan; Speak Low; Close Your Eyes; My Funny Valentine; Since I Fell for You; The Look of
Love; Love Me or Leave Me; Autumn Leaves; I Wish You Love; Lover Come Back to Me; It Don't
Mean a Thing; What'll I Do.
Gia Notte: vocals; Don Braden: tenor saxophone, alto and soprano flutes; Jason Teborek:
piano (2, 4, 6-10, 12); Brandon McCune: piano (1, 3, 5, 11); Tom DiCarlo: bass; Cecil Brooks
III: drums; Freddie Hendrix: trumpet and flugelhorn; Guy Notte: alto saxophone (3); Kahlil
Kwame Bell: percussion.