An exceptionally good jazz vocal album and Ms Brenza is a real jazz singer…
Roberta Brenza (v); Stacy Dillard (ts, ss); Dawn Clement (p); Cameron Brown (b); Matthew Wilson (d) guest vocalist Sheila Jordan on two tracks.
Recorded in NYC June 17-19, 2019
Any jazz vocal album that features Sheila Jordan as a guest on two selections is worthy of close investigation and this one is no exception.
Not that the veteran jazz singer is the only attraction here as Ms Brenza gives a sterling performance throughout this programme.
The opening title song swings away merrily and it is in fact the singer’s very first composition dating from 2014. Song For My Father is given a brisk vocal treatment with Roberta singing Horace Silver’s original lyrics and not those used by Gregory Porter on his recording.
Stacy Dillard provides a swirling soprano solo, and the rhythm section cooks nicely. A highlight of the album is Bebop Lives where Roberta shares vocal duties with the evergreen jazz vocalist Sheila Jordan, now in her 93 rd year although you wouldn’t know it listening to her here.
Ms Brenza attended a workshop with Jordan some time ago and it was, she says, as a result of that she began a career as a jazz vocalist.
She obviously picked up quite a bit from her mentor as their two voices on this selection sound similar and they bend well together.
Art Deco was written by trumpeter Don Cherry who asked Ms Jordan to write a lyric to it. Unfortunately, she did not manage it during Don’s lifetime but here she sings her lyric and scats away joyously, taking the lead on this piece.
Then the two girls get together and continue a lively duo reading. Strong contributions on this track from Dillard on soprano and Dawn Clement on Fender Rhodes.
The pianist also provides a solid, lyrical piano solo and support to Autumn Leaves where Roberta sings an impressive lyric using Miles Davis’ delivery as played on the classic version of this song by Cannonball Adderley on the album Somethin’ Else.
It was also an inspired idea to use the Hank Jones piano introduction which Ms Clement fashions neatly to fit in with the arrangement.
Roberta’s gentle, pulsing vocal keeps the mood going nicely as she sings it in the original French language.
Take Five is another homage to the jazz greats of yesterday with a sterling vocal and some spiralling, bebop styled soprano from Dillard. A far cry from composer Paul Desmond’s cool alto on the Brubeck album but it works well on this interpretation.
Drummer Matthew Wilson gets a good workout here as well and does well. Ballad Of The Paper Moon which segues into It’s Only A Paper Moon rounds off a sterling set of standards and two originals by Roberta.
As the sleeve note writer points out, Ms Brenza allows all her colleagues to shine at length and in doing so draws attention to her own fine singing and style.
This is, in fact, an exceptionally good jazz vocal album and Ms Brenza is a real jazz singer, a fairly rare creature these days.
Reviewed by Derek Ansell