Harry Nilsson said that "one is the loneliest number" and another common phrase is that two's company and three's a crowd. Keeping this in mind, vocalist Cara Campanelli wisely chose the middle road and seems right at home crafting duo readings of standard gems from an era long gone. Campanelli is a New York native who received accolades in Downbeat Magazine as a high school student and, years later, shared the stage with Roberta Gambarini at the 2008 Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival. Now based in Boston, she shows a penchant for classics from the likes of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and other Great American Songbook songsmiths on this, her debut album.
Campanelli is joined by one musician, either pianist Adam Birnbaum, guitarist Greg Gagnon, bassist Greg Loughman or percussionist Jimmy Elcock, on each song and the material goes from Broadway all the way to Brazil. Old-world charm is present across all of these tracks and her rich alto voice can go from pleasant and dreamy to dark and bold within a manner of moments. The tracks featuring Birnbaum's piano work are the most straightforward readings here, conjuring a vision of Campanelli, elbow rested against the piano, singing over his classy accompaniment in an intimate club environment. Campanelli and Birnbaum swing with the best of them on "It's Alright With Me" and both musicians find the perfect balance between despair and optimism on Charlie Chaplin's classic, "Smile."
Greg Gagnon's guitar is the accompaniment of choice for the bossa nova material on the album. "Speak Low" and the widely covered "The Girl From Ipanema" benefit from his support, and Campanelli even doing some scatting on the latter. Gagnon also shows off a different side with his Spanish-tinged, classically influenced sound on the brief take of "My Funny Valentine."
While Loughman and Elcock only make one appearance each, these tracks prove to be the most adventurous on the album. Campanelli casts a nighttime spell during her intoxicating reading of "Reaching For The Moon." An aura of mystery surrounds this one and she seems to breathe in the night as she moves over Loughman's spacious accompaniment. "Temptation" slowly builds to a boil as Campanelli's voice slithers, and then soars, over Elcock's hand drumming and they tangle in a rhythmic dance that excites and provides plenty of passion. With So Near, Campanelli shows a clear direction, fondness for those artists who came before her, and a willingness to explore these classics to the fullest extent.
Track Listing: It's Alright With Me; Reaching For The Moon; Speak Low; Skylark; My Romance; Temptation; My Funny Valentine; Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love); Until The Real Thing Comes Along; The Girl From Ipanema; Smile.
Personnel: Cara Campanelli: vocals; Adam Birnbaum: piano (1, 4, 8, 9, 11); Greg Gagnon: guitar (3, 5, 7, 10); Greg Loughman: bass (2); Jimmy Elcock: percussion (6).
Year Released: 2009
| Record Label: Self Produced
| Style: Vocal
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.