Singer Jessica Molaskey's fourth album, Sitting in Limbo, has been well received. She is guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli's wife, and together they have won the New York City Nightlife Award for "Best Musical Duo" in both 2007 and 2008.
Molaskey is a very polished vocalist whose specialty is Broadway musicals, currently appearing in a revival of Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George, which opened in Manhattan in February, 2008. Her jazz credentials are enhanced by her frequent appearances and recordings such as this one, with her husband's working combo, but she is really an artist even more comfortable in a theatrical or cabaret setting. A similar comparison could be made for the late career of Rosemary Clooney, who was re-invented by Concord Records during the last two decades of her life, through her many jazz-associated albums. However, even Clooney came from a big band setting prior to her string of pop hits in the 1950s.
Sitting in Limbo is a thematic album, using the lyrics of Jimmy Cliff's title tune to reflect a place "between heaven and hell" with an interesting choice of mostly pop material. On Paul Simon's "Hearts and Bones," based upon an autobiographical lyric that reflects upon Simon's failed marriage and a journey to New Mexico with actress/writer Carrie Fisher (."..One and one-half wandering Jews, Free to wander wherever they choose..."). Billy Joel's "Summer, Highland Falls" is interleaved with Jobim's uncredited "Tristeza," with the word "sadness" appearing in both songs but with different meanings.
An important part of the Molaskey/Pizzarelli performanceslive or in studiois their interrelated duets. Here two Vincent Youman/ Irving Caesar tunes"I Want to Be Happy" and "Sometimes I'm Happy"are sung by each of the vocalists. Elsewhere, Molaskey renders Joni Mitchell's "The Circle Game" while Pizzarelli does Jobim's vocally complex "Waters of March." Finally, Cat Stevens' "Morning Has Broken" is sung alongside the Pizzarelli/Molaskey original "I Woke Up One Early Morning." All of these tunes represent contrasting views that are reflected in Jimmy Cliff's lyrics on the title tune: "..I don't know where life will take me, but I know where I've been..."
Pizzarelli's group is augmented by pianist/organist Larry Goldings on half of the selections (in lieu of Larry Fuller) and the presence of the always dependable and lyrical tenor saxophonist, Harry Allen. Bassist Martin Pizzarelli and drummer Tony Tedesco complete the roster.
Disregarding labels and sub-genres, this is Jessica Molaskey's finest album in terms of concept and execution.
Track Listing: Sitting In Limbo; Heavy Cloud No Rain; Summer,Highland Falls; Ooh Child; I Want to be Happy/Sometimes I'm Happy; There Will Never Be Another You; Knowing You; I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter; The Circle Game/Waters of March; Walkin' After Midnight; Hearts and Bones; Morning Has Broken/I Woke Up One Early Morning.
Personnel: Jessica Molaskey: vocals; John Pizzarelli: guitar, vocals; Larry Goldings: piano and organ (1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 12); Larry Fuller: piano (3, 5-7, 9, 10); Martin Pizzarelli: bass; Tony Tedesco:drums; Harry Allen: saxophone.
I love jazz because next to my kids, it's the love of my life.
I was first exposed to jazz by Joe Rico from a tiny station in Niagara Falls in 1954 when I was 13.
The best show I ever attended was Maynard Ferguson who blew the roof off Massey Hall in the late 50s.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to everything you can and then listen again.