On Serenading the Moon, Lisa Ferraro takes a dozen tunes, mostly from The Great American Songbook, and invests them with an elegant soulfulness that often as not leaves the listener breathless. Rejecting the kind of vocal gymnastics that often highlight the interpretations of many jazz singers, she focuses sometimes on haunting, sometimes on energetic storytelling. If you have great lyrics, why not go with them. She does, and she is absolutely right to do so.
While my own preferences are for the uptempo and bluesy tracks, there really isn’t anything to complain about when it comes to her choices on the rest of the set. Highlights include her opening duets with bassist Ray Drummond on “Everything I Love” and drummer Lewis Nash on “Love Walked In.” Then there is her subtle vocal work with pianist John Di Martino on Dorothy Parker and Ralph Ranger’s “I Wished on the Moon,” which opens the album. Guitarist James Chirillo is featured with Ferraro on the set closer, a tender take on “Moon River.”
Of course, there’s tenor sax master Houston Person, who not only co-produced the album, but joins in with both some exciting accents and reliable solos. The ensemble’s work on what had been a pop hit for Doris Day really shows the blues possibilities in the song. There is also some fine solo work from Di Martino and Chirillo. They combine for an affecting version of the classic “More Than You Know.”
All in all, Serenading the Moon is jazz singing that is about as good as it gets.
More than likely, one of the last places you’d look for a great bossa nova sound would be an album from a Hungarian vocalist with Italian roots backed by a bunch of musicians from Budapest. But if you like good music in the tradition of Astrid Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim, indeed if you like performances of their own music that verily seems to channel them, you can do a lot worse than the new album from Italian-rooted Hungarian Rozina Pátkai, Você e Eu.
Not only does the sweet-voiced songstress do full justice to what we might call the great bossa nova and Latin songbook with excellent versions of tunes like “Desafinado,” ”Garota de Ipanema” and “Aguas de Março,” but she has a haunting, string-drenched arrangement of “The Man I Love” (“El Hombre Que Yo Ame”) accompanied by The RTQ String Quartet. There is also some excellent work on the horns from Balázs Pecze on several tracks, including the only tune sung in English, “Smile.” Mátyás Tóth does yeoman work on guitar, as do bassist Máarton Soós and drummer Balázs Cseh.
Bossa nova from Budapest—you never know.
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