Jazz singer Linda Ciofalo has been working at her vocation for some time as one of the busiest vocalists on Long Island, New York, appearing at a variety of jazz clubs, venues and wineries.
On Sun Set, her second album, Ciofalo has the good fortuneor good friendsto provide A-List musicians including saxophonist Joel Frahm, guitarist John Hart, pianist John di Martino, bassist Marcus McLaurine and ubiquitous drummer Matt Wilson. The album has a concept, with five tunes having the word "sun" in the title (although one sneaks by with "orange"). In addition, songs like Madonna's "La Isla Bonita, carry a breezy Caribbean flavor, reflecting the Island sunshine.
Starting with the "sun concept songs, there are two Lennon/McCartney songs, with "I'll Follow the Sun" a better tune, in part thanks to Wilson's creative percussion. Stevie Wonder's "Blame it on the Sun" is an interesting ballad and not one ordinarily heard on a jazz vocal album. Lionel Hampton's classic "Midnight Sun" is given a seven-and-a-half minute reading by Ciofalo, with a fine tenor solo from Frahm. Finally, there is "Orange Blossoms in Summertime," a Kurt Elling/Curtis Lundy spin-off of Gershwin's "Summertime," sung as a ballad.
There are some additional "sun" songs here, albeit not technically so. The Rodgers and Hammerstein opener from Oklahoma, "Oh What A Beautiful Morning," is certainly a sun-implied song as is Moss/Latouche's "Lazy Afternoon," which implies a steamy summer afternoon. There is also a closing romantic ballad by Hewlett P. Smith that, with a title like "The Last Day of Summer," also makes it just right for this album.
One of the best surprises on the album is "Love Is Stronger Far Than We, a ballad that fewer than ten artists have recorded since it appeared in the 1966 film A Man and A Woman. This places Ciofalo in the same company as Astrud Gilberto, Lana Cantrell, Stevie Holland and Esther Satterfield as the only vocalists who have recorded this song from the pens of Francis Lai and Pierre Barouh. Satterfield was the only one to get some mileage on it on Once I Loved (A&M, 1976). Guitarist John Hart shines on a plucked acoustic solo on "Love is Stronger Far," which he follows with a faster flamenco-type solo on the next track, "La Isla Bonita."
Frahm is a saxophonist who singers love to have around. On the first few tunes he provides some bracing soprano sax solos and then switches to tenor. As always, his obbligatos are perfecto. "Comes Love," is given a dramatic re-awakening by the creative McLaurine, who essentially duets with Ciofalo for the first half of the tune. After his solo, Matt Wilson enters with one of his unique percussion readings, and they both allow Ciofalo to sing the tune in an un-clichéd manner, also scatting on this version of the Stept/Brown/Tobias classic..
Oh! What A Beautiful Morning; You Took Advantage Of Me; Orange Blossoms In Summertime; Here Comes The Sun; Comes Love; Love Is Stronger Far Than We; La Isla Bonita; I'll Follow The Sun; Midnight Sun; Lazy Afternoon; Blame It On The Sun; The Last Day Of Summer.
Linda Ciofalo: vocals; John di Martino: piano; John Hart: guitar; Marcus McLaurine: bass; Joel Frahm: sax; Matt Wilson: drums.