Patti Wicks represents the historical apex of female jazz pianists/vocalists, with Nina Simone and Shirley Horn on one side and Patricia Barber and Dena DeRose on the other. Wicks has loads of talent and the unique ability to take the simplest cocktail jazz trifle and make it sound like Shakespeare. Her previous recordings, Room at the Top, Love Locked Out and Basic Feeling, all tastefully revealed a vast, understated talent worthy of ample acreage in the field of jazz vocals. Wicks' voice is nominally considered an alto, but that tag may be misleading. It's deep and broad, speaking of experience, which is in this case is practice obtained from years on the bandstand.
A wicked ballad performer like her friends Rebecca Parris and Nancy King, Wicks' voice and time can add an additional dimension to any song she sings. "This Hotel opens The Italian Sessions. Brushes on the snare and careful bass playing buoy Wicks' piano and voice on a light wave. If music had a smell, this one would be of just-lit, filterless Lucky Strikes and vodka martinis. Wicks' piano and voice blends the smoky and the heady in a solution of relaxed bliss. Wicks' arrangement of "I've Got the World on a String is a revelation. The song is counted off and introduced by two rapid staccato chords that recall Nat King Cole. Wicks' conversational singing style is best illustrated here as she comfortably strolls through the Ted Koehler lyrics.
The Italian Sessions sport two Wicks originals, the slowly lilting "E Minor Waltz for Gavin, where Wicks' piano playing mimics her vocal style, and "Here's To Romance, where she address love in a waltz, laconically resisting love's wiles. Her smart piano soloing closely follows her vocal approach. On the upbeat side, Wicks' playfully romps through the Kahn and Styne standard "A Beautiful Friendship. She makes Fisher and Segal's "I Keep Going back to Joe's her "saloon song in the same way Sinatra did with "One More For the Road. Here it's not Lucky Strikes and vodka, but a Cohiba Coronas Especiales with a single-malt scotch.
Recorded with an Italian rhythm section, The Italian Sessions recalls the ambience of Wicks' last recording, Basic Feeling, where she employed the same players, drummer Giovanni Gullino and bassist Giovanni Sanguineti. Tenor saxophonist Gianni Basso makes a dry, reedy appearance on "Laura and "It Might as Well Be Spring, but the real star here is Wicks, whose talent cannot be containedand shouldn't be.
This Hotel; I
Patti Wicks: piano, vocals; Giovanni Sanguineti: bass; Giovanni Gullino: drums. Featuring Gianni Basso: tenor