Think of singer Cathy Rocco as the offspring of Nancy Wilson and Phoebe Snow. You're Gonna Hear from Me, Rocco's solo jazz debut, explores her blues and R&B influences as well. Her stellar backing band, which includes Kuno Schmid (piano and arrangements), Michael Higgins (bass), Vic Stevens (drums), and Tamir Hendelmen's arrangements, serve her well in that they provide the smoky, bluesy tone that suits her particular vocal style.
Standout tracks include a slow, sexy rendition of “Tea for Two,” which will make the listener reconsider the usual “cutesy” versions of this familiar tune. She also tackles “On A Clear Day,” subtly working in references to Johnny Nash's “I Can See Clearly Now” and Rogers and Hart's “Johnny One Note.” “I Never Went Away” benefits from a gentle, bossa nova-like arrangement. Rocco dares to cover “There Will Never Be Another You” as an uptempo, Latin-infused number, but overall the risk works, particularly due to Schmid's fluid piano.
However, Rocco faces an uphill battle when she covers classics done so well by their originators. She simply cannot match Tracey Chapman's bluesy vocals on “Give Me One Reason.” While she changes “Hello Like Before” from R&B to jazz, she does not make the song her own. Instead, Bill Withers's wistful, romantic vocals still dominate the soul classic Stevie Wonder's upbeat, pounding “For Once in My Life” remains the definitive version, although Rocco attempts to convey the introspective mood of the tune. Finally, who can possibly compete with Aretha Franklin? Many artists such as Rocco have covered “Daydreaming,” but no one has matched the beauty and optimism of the original.
Interestingly over half the songs on You're Gonna Hear from Me were recorded live, always a welcome touch on a jazz album. Rocco's vocals definitely sound energized when in front of an audience, as if feeding off their enthusiasm.
Rocco clearly respects the great jazz standards and does her best to pay tribute to the songs' originators. However, her bluesy, somewhat harsh vocals do not always fit the particular tunes' moods. Recording well-known contemporary songs always invites comparisons to the most familiar versions, with the singer not able to top these definitive recordings. Rocco may fare best singing original material in the blues and R&B genres, better suiting her particular vocal style. Her stellar band could easily rise to this challenge, and she could truly make these new songs her own.
Overall, Rocco's You're Gonna Hear from Me is a valiant effort, but ultimately cannot compare to the classic versions of the jazz (and contemporary) standards. However, she has ample time to develop a distinct sound and establish a unique style in future recordings.
To view a clip of Rocco performing “Hello Like Before,” visit this YouTube link.