Roberta Gambarini: Easy To Love

Vinyl issue of 2004 date with James Moody et al reminds how well the Italian singer has sustained the legacy of Fitzgerald, Vaughan and McRae


Born into a musical family in Turin, Roberta Gambarini studied the piano and clarinet from the age of 12. In 1998 she moved to the USA where she won a scholarship to Boston’s Conservatory Of Music.

Her first American release in 2001 with the Pratt Brothers Big Band introduced a uniquely gifted performer, whose range extended from a rich contralto to a perfectly controlled soprano (Consolidated Artists CAP 985). She showed there and on subsequent releases that she is clearly able to carry on the legacy of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae.

She demonstrates perfect intonation with her unaccompanied introduction to Easy To Love, a number that fits the dark timbre of her voice. Only Trust Your Heart was introduced by Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz on their 1964 Au Go Go album. Roberta’s delicate interpretation reveals her to be totally sympathetic to the subtleties of the bossa nova art form.

She revisits Dizzy Gillespie’s Sunny Side Of The Street arrangement, demonstrating her feel for the bebop idiom. Gillespie had been playing this chart for years but Ms Gambarini concentrates here on the 1957 version from Sonny Side Up, featuring Sonny Stitt and Sonny Rollins. Her own vocalese lyrics to the horn solos are an album highlight.

Harry Edison’s Centerpiece is borrowed from Johnny Mandel’s earlier Keester Parade. It features Ms Gambarini standing toe-to-toe with the indomitable James Moody in some inventive scat exchanges. The tenor man, who also guests on Lover Man, was 79 years old at the time of this recording and became something of a mentor to the singer.

Roberta Gambarini has twice been voted Best Female Jazz Singer Of The Year by the Jazz Journalists’ Association. Easy To Love was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2007 and if Jazz Journal still gave ratings this reissue would merit five stars.

Easy To Love; Only Trust Your Heart; Lover Man; On The Sunny Side Of The Street; Porgy, I’s Your Woman Now / I Loves You Porgy; Lover Come Back To Me; Two Lonely People; Centerpiece; Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry; No More Blues; Smoke Gets In Your Eyes / All The Things You Are; Multi-Coloured Blue; Monk’s Prayer / Looking Back (77.35)
Gambarini (v) with, collectively: James Moody (ts, v); Tamir Hendelman, Gerald Clayton (p); John Clayton, Chuck Berghofer (b); Willie Jones III, Joe La Barbera (d). Los Angeles, 18-19 June 2004.
In+Out Records IOR LP77084-1