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June 2006

Roseanna Vitro
Live at the Kennedy Center
Challenge Records

In concert, Roseanna Vitro is as terrific a raconteur as she is a singer, particularly when she’s sharing tales of her tenure as a U.S. Jazz Ambassador or expressing her understandable respect and admiration for pianist, arranger and frequent collaborator Kenny Werner. None of which you’ll hear on this ostensibly live album, recorded last year at the Kennedy Center, which includes a scant 90 seconds of inter-song dialog. The upside to such a paucity of conversation is, of course, enough remaining space for a full hour of inspired musicianship as exercised by arguably the most underappreciated American song stylist on the contemporary jazz scene.

Whether swinging at full tilt with Werner (plus bassist Dean Johnson and drummer Tim Horner) through a blistering rendition of Betty Carter’s “Please Do Something,” channeling her inner June Christy on “Like Someone in Love,” wading slowly through a dreamy “Like a Lover” or serving up a sweet, mellow salvo to open-hearted trust with Werner’s understatedly powerful “Commitment” (featuring lyrics by Vitro’s husband, Paul Wickliffe), the redheaded fireball from Texarkana knows how to woo and win an audience. No, you won’t get to hear why Vitro feels Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” is the ideal salute to victims of Hurricane Katrina (before delivering a six-minute version that could ignite even the coldest heart), but you will hear, in Wickliffe’s clever lyrics to Bill Evans’ “Twelve Tone Tune,” the deep, fulfilling joy Vitro finds in the unrestricted freedom of jazz.

Originally published in June 2006
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