This debut performance on record by Letizia Gambi will be remembered for a very, very long time. What is striking is that this marvellous release comes not even a month after that marvellous release, phiLOVEsophy Valentina Marino broke in the US. If you thought the Italians have invaded the US, you would be absolutely right. Both albums have been produced by masterful musicians from this continent: the former by the great bassist Cameron Brown and Blue Monday by the ineffable Lenny White. The drummer has a wonderful track record as a producer, having already made his mark with the iconic Acoustic Masters volumes one and two.
Letizia Gambi, like Marino, is born to be a musician. I would go as far as to hazard a guess that Gambi, like Marino has near-perfect pitch. Gambi, for her part has given evidence of sublime craftsmanship, harmonic inventiveness and melodic flair. The thrilling opening, ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ which melds the classic standard with Jackie Maclean’s ‘Dig” glued together by the Neapolitan chant inspired by the opera La Gatta Cenerentola, is a fusion that jump-starts the record. There is never a slack moment on this record. The Italian songs, from ‘Que Sera, Sera’ to ‘Sulo Pe’ Parlà’ and ‘Perchè Domani’and the fusillade of brilliantly-crafted English ones, Gambi sings with almost unbelievable intuition and dramatic intelligence. Songs like Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back to Black’ are sung with gut-wrenching pain, while others are held in sensuous caress, like the profoundly beautiful ‘Skin to Skin’. Other highlights are songs – short stories told with just the right kind of ornamentation, and Gambi explores new shades of anguish and joy.
There is another reason why this album is ever so memorable. And that is, quite simply: Lenny White has produced it. White is a true master at musical production in the mould of classic producers such as Creed Taylor. Typically White will eschew grandiosity. Instead he brings his full talent to bear on natural feelings. He extracts nuanced performances from his musicians. There is enough evidence to suggest that he might have had an altogether easy time with Letizia Gambi. This is a vocalist blessed with a sultry contralto, and is born with a talent to adorn words with ethereally beautiful inflections. There is a fine use of dynamics and Gambi’s approach is also to elegantly execute vocals without frills; just deeply felt emotions complemented with lilting loveliness. What a way to seal the human heart.
Masterful performances are also turned in by some of the finest musicians in Jazz – Ron Carter is truly inspirational, pianists Donald Vega and Helen Sung adorn this album with much beauty as do Gil Goldstein, who also offers some beautiful arrangements – on ‘Que Sera, Sera’ and ‘When You Were Here’ but so does Lenny White, whose genius seems to pop up seemingly everywhere, including on superb arrangements that are all over this wonderful record.
Track List: Sweet Georgia Brown/Dig; True Love Remember Me (Recorda Me); Without You/Senz’e Te; Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be); Under the Moon; But Not for Me; Blue Monday; Back to Black; You’ll Say Tomorrow (Perchè Domani); When You Were Here; Skin to Skin; Sulo Pe’ Parlà; Perchè Domani.
Personnel: Letizia Gambi: vocals; Sam Williams: backing vocals (7); Helen Sung: piano (1, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13); Donald Vega: piano (2, 3, 6); Pete Levin : keyboards (4); John Benitez: bass (1, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10); Ron Carter: bass (2, 3, 6); Daryl Johns: bass (4, 11); Lenny White: drums (1 – 9, 11), percussion (11); Andrea Valentini: bass drum (1); Dave Stryker: guitar (2); Tom Guarana: guitar (4, 11); Nick Maroch: AC guitar (7, 10), guitar (12); Gil Goldstein: accordion (4, 5, 11); Hector Del Curto: bandoneon (8); Haley Niswanger: saxophone (4); Jisoo Ok: cello (7, 8, 9, 10, 13).
Release date: March 2016
Running time: 55:45
Buy album on: amazon