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The dictionary defines a "torch song" as "a sentimental love song, typically one in which the singer laments a lost love." What the definition fails to recognize is that an important element of a torch song is that it is virtually always sung by a woman. The torch song is the jazz counterpart to country music tunes where lamentation has been is an art form.
On this her first album, Teresa Manzella sings sad songs that one might hear late at night in a café inhabited by lonely people, literally crying in their beers. She manages to add torch to songs where one might not expect it such as with "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" with Michael O'Brien's bowed bass creating a cello sound. For this song and others like "Autumn Serenade" and "Azure", Manzella's deep voice and her sultry delivery create the torchy mood. These tunes typically include the lamenting saxophone of Gary Berg. But she understands that 50 minutes of sad café music may be a bit much. So that's where the Swingin' part takes over. Mood breakers like "My Babe" are inserted where Manzella takes on a bright cute style. This is a fine cut as Manzella shows off her scatting skills, without overdoing it. Other up tempo tunes where she successfully uses her bright, cute style are fine fast paced interpretations of "Peel Me a Grape" and "Lullaby of Birdland". One concern involves engineering. Sometimes Manzella is hard to hear, overridden by the instruments such as Hyvarinen's guitar as on "Azure" where it's hard to discern the lyrics. Otherwise, the players are strongly supportive of Manzella throughout, with the guitar the lead instrument on several cuts and Mary Louise Knutson's piano taking on that role for the remaining ones. Fine drummer Tony Moreno sets the rhythmic pace throughout.
Technical concerns notwithstanding, this is a fine maiden album from another good jazz artist from the Upper Midwest area and is recommended. To find out some more about Teresa, go to www.mtn.org/tcjs/Musicians/Bios/Teresa Manzella. html.
Track Listing: You'd Be So Nice to Come Home to#; Out or Nowhere*; I'll Remember April#; My Babe*; Peel Me a Grape#; Lullaby of Birdland*; Autumn Serenade*; I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm#; Why Don't You Do Right?*; Sassy's Blues#; Azure*
Personnel: Teresa Manzella- Vocals; John Hyvarinen - Guitar*; Adam Linz, Michael O'Brien# - Bass*; Tony Moreno - Drums; Gary Berg - Tenor Sax; Mary Louise Knutson - Piano#
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.