During the five or more years I’ve covered contemporary jazz releases, I’ve often lamented–to mostly myself–that so many album titles were, well…basic. It’s almost a tradition in jazz, to name albums in very obvious ways like So-and-So Sings the Blues. There’s none of giving albums another element of mystique, or to offer a piece of a puzzle that might not even be missing. That’s why I didn’t initially listen to Vanessa Racci and her new LP, Jazzy Italian, because it comes straight from the School Of Hurry, Someone Come Up with a Name for This Thing.
Words and Photos by Marc Phillips
Not fair, I know, but what brought me back to Vanessa Racci was the record label that sent this LP to me–Zoho Music. I have a long history of reviewing Zoho releases for many reasons, so much so that when I reorganized my music collection when I moved into my new house, I roped off a section for Zoho. (I also wrote an article on the label here.) Those reasons revolve around two strengths. First, an underlying theme behind many Zoho releases is the clashing of cultures, one usually located in Latin America. This, of course, brings to light a musical diaspora that has been influential to a particular group of artists. The second reason is Zoho releases, even when they’re on redbook CD, sound uniformly excellent. So Jazzy Italian from Vanessa deserves a closer listen.
Those two Zoho strengths come into play on Jazzy Italian. Vanessa Racci, an Italian-American singer from New York City, pays homage to other Italians who have contributed to jazz–Nick LaRocca of the Dixieland Jazz Band, Louis Prima, Bucky Pizzarelli, Chick Corea and others. She has an ace up her sleeve, of course–she’s been a teacher and a vocal coach for 25 years. Before you start ruminating on “those who can’t teach,” know that Vanessa Racci has an almost perfect voice for these jazz standards, sounding like someone you should already know.
Her band, led by pianists/arrangers Steven Feifke and Glafkos Kontemeniotis, contains as much magic and invention so that the other half of Zoho’s promise comes alive. Vanessa Racci can sing, and she can insert true emotion into her interpretations of such songs as “Moon River,” “I’m a Fool to Want You” and “A Sunday Kind of Love.” But it’s her fellow musicians that match her every step of the way.
Again, Zoho has brought true adventure, a plethora of musical knowledge and stunning sound to another memorable release.