Monday, August 2, 2010

Vocal CD of the Month - "Linda Ciofalo: Dancing With Johnny"

Vocal CD of the Month
Linda Ciofalo: "Dancing with Johnny" (Lucky Jazz) 2010

Rating: *****
A very pleasant surprise, full of surprises thanks to the creative arrangements (by pianist John DiMartino and Linda herself) and, of course, the lovely vocal & instrumental performances.
On this self-produced release, Ciofalo is backed by Grammy winner - and a current member of the CTI All Stars 2010 Band - Brian Lynch on trumpet, John DiMartino (piano), John Benitez (bass), Ernesto Simpson (drums), Little Johnny Rivero (percussion), Paul Meyers (nylon string guitar), Chieli Minucci (electric guitar) and Joel Frahm (tenor & soprano saxophones).

A Johnny Mercer Songbook -- showcasing the lyricist's genius with such diverse partners as Victor Schertzinger, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, Henry Mancini, Robert Emmett Dolan, Gordon Jenkins, Ralph Burns, Woody Herman & Rube Bloom -- couldn't go wrong in terms of repertoire, but what makes this CD really so special is the fresh appeal of each & every track, with Linda Ciofalo's bell-clear beautiful voice shining throughout the 52-minute program of 13 tunes, all recorded in a single session, on October 20, 2009 in NY.

My personal favorite tracks are the exciting latin-tinged scores of "Tangerine" (on which the intoxicating percussion work of Little Johnny Rivero, combining congas & timbales, sounds like a meeting of Mongo Santamaria with Tito Puente) and "That Old Black Magic," both also featuring Lynch (undoubtedly one of the Top 5 trumpeters in the contemporary jazz scene) and Frahm.

But there are many other highlights, such as the Diana Krall-like sensual approach to "Talk To Me Baby" (done as a slow bossa nova, with Paul Meyers, a veteran of Thiago de Mello's Amazon band, playing acoustic guitar a la Joao Gilberto) and the up-tempo bossa take of "Day In, Day Out," again embellished by Meyers' syncopated guitar beat.

The magnificent "Early Autumn" becomes a quasi-bolero, "Skylark" receives a bluesy feel with Minucci evoking memories of the late Eric Gale, and "P.S. I Love You" (a song that Diana Krall has been singing on her current "Quiet Nights" tour and plans to record on her next album) appears here with Rivero adding bongos to add a soft latin spice to this sumptuous Gordon Jenkins ballad. Pure delight!

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