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June 2002

Toni Jannotta
Jazz at the Ranch
TCB

Californian Toni Jannotta strikes me as a dedicated professional with a good head for jazz but not quite enough heart. On her second CD, Jazz at the Ranch, recorded live in the Santa Monica Mountains in Sept. 1999, Jannotta demonstrates impeccable taste. Serving up a rich and varied program that embraces Chick Corea, Bill Evans, Lionel Hampton, George Shearing and Annie Ross, she surrounds herself with first-rate sidemen like guitarist Ken Rosser and tenor saxophonist Chuck Manning. Trouble is, her timing too often seems forced and her delivery lacks passion. There's not enough nuttiness in her "Twisted," or enough predatory urgency in her "Moondance." Particularly disappointing are her ballads. The simmering intensity needed to defrost "Midnight Sun" is all but absent, as are the tingle that ignites the trembling anticipation of "The Very Thought of You" and the dreamy self-delusion that defines "The Man I Love." To her credit, though, Jannotta recovers nicely with a serene, tenderhearted take on Thad Jones' "A Child Is Born" and handles the tricky curves of Bill Evans'"Waltz for Debby" with style and grace.

Originally published in June 2002
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