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September 2006

Roberta Gambarini
Easy to Love
Groovin High

In 2005 I reviewed the Pratt Brothers Big Band, giving it a glowing review, calling guest vocalist Roberta Gambarini “a distillation of Anita O’Day and Sarah Vaughan,” who “nearly steals the session.” Now comes Gambarini’s domestic debut album. Just listen to how confident she is of her intonation on the first track. She sings the obscure intro to “Easy to Love,” with its tricky intervals, a cappella. She loves verses. She must also love lyricists because her enunciation brings out every word/nuance, even at breakneck speeds, as on “Lover Come Back to Me” and “No More Blues.”

Gambarini scatters medleys by Kern, Gershwin and Monk throughout the album, revealing mood swings from torch songs, neglected ballads and hard-swinging up-tunes to her strongest suit, scat. There’s no better example of the last item than “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” in which she captures the sound of Dizzy Gillespie and the “Sonny” sides of Stitt and Rollins. On “Centerpiece,” Gambarini and guest tenorist James Moody trade delightful vocal eights. Sometimes Moody “competes” by resorting to yodeling.

Originally published in September 2006
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