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December 2006

Meredith D’Ambrosio
Wishing on the Moon
Sunnyside

If any songwriter deserves the encomium “American original,” it’s Meredith d’Ambrosio. No slave to A-A-B-A or 32-measure tunes, she has always followed her own muse. Her inspiration: intimate jazz, in the story telling style of Mabel Mercer. Meredith has a small range, but tons of wit, whimsy and wisdom. There’s no doubt she’s a bona fide jazz singer. Take the title tune: It sounds like a vocalese...like she added words to some instrumentalist’s 16-bar solo. Her phrasing is a paragon of clarity and economy. When her message is complete, Meredith ends it. No wasted words. “Have You Noticed?” and “I’d Do It All Over Again” are 24-bar tunes. The latter reveals her concerns for construction: The verse, referring to a warm-up, is written in the form of exercise scales, and in order to make “all again” rhyme with “in vain,” she ever-so-slightly bends “again” into a-gayn. That track ends with near-subliminal scatting from d’Ambrosio…all too short. While most tunes seem truncated, “Angels Without Their Wings” is 34 measures to accommodate the title as an afterthought. Adding humor to unrequited love, in “Melodious Funk,” she seemed close to substituting “Thelonious Monk” for the title. Kudos to pianist Cecilia Coleman for her sensitive comping, and trumpeter/flugelhornist Don Sickler for his eloquent gap-filling.

Originally published in December 2006
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