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Roseanna Vitro: The Music of Randy Newman

C. Michael Bailey By

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Randy Newman is an American treasure hidden in plain sight. An Academy and Grammy Award-winning soundtrack composer since the 1980s, a decade earlier, Newman established himself as a preeminent American song writer with Randy Newman (Reprise, 1968), 12 Songs (Reprise, 1970), and Sail Away (Reprise, 1972), and his songs have been covered by everyone from Three Dog Night to Joe Cocker. Few popular American songwriters have captured Americana as well as Newman.

Singer Roseanna Vitro and Newman share a Southern heritage, with her birthplace being Hot Springs, Arkansas, while Newman lived in New Orleans when growing up. The South is a potent metaphor for Newman and an equally potent aural reminder for Vitro. The singer cultivates a band with a red-dirt, organic sound that bridges well the distance between Newman's music and jazz.

Vitro's approach dovetails well with the "Frontier Jazz" concept favored by Houston singer Jacqui Sutton on Billie and Dolly. The ubiquitous presence of Sara Caswell's violin (or "fiddle," if you will) gives Vitro's sophisticated interpretations a rich roux aroma: warm and inviting.

"Last Night I Had A Dream," from Newman's Sail Away , is given a hard Latin Treatment, with pianist Mark Soskin perfectly navigating the descending Latin scales. "Sail Away" is treated with respect, Vitro stripping Newman's sardonic tone, while "Mama Told Me Not To Come" is a swinging treat full of fun anxiety. Vitro fully embraces Newman's fireside demeanor on the vignettes "Baltimore" and "In Germany Before the War," recasting the pieces and revealing Newman's importance to us all.

Track Listing: Last Night I Had A Dream; Sail Away; If I Didn't Have You; Everytime It Rains; Baltimore; In Germany Before The War; Mama Told Me Not To Come Home; I WIll Go Sailing No More; Feels Like Home; Losing You.

Personnel: Roseanna Vitro: vocals; Mark Soskin: piano; Sara Caswell: violin; Dean Johnson: bass; Tim Horner: drums (1-5, 7-10); Jamey Haddad: drums, percussion (1, 2, 5, 6); Steve Cardenas: guitar (1, 2, 5, 6).

Title: The Music Of Randy Newman | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Motema Music

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