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Linda Ciofalo: Sun Set

Linda Ciofalo

Linda Ciafalo’s idea to build an entire album around sun-dappled tunes seems utterly fitting, since she is blessed with a voice as warm, bright and shimmering as a smog-free country morning. A longtime favorite on the New York club circuit, Ciofalo had the good fortune to launch her career in the mid-’80s as a big-band vocalist, and the wisdom to take from the experience the singular skill that ultimately separates genuine jazz singers from mere wannabes: the priceless ability to blend seamlessly with one’s bandmates, establishing an indivisible interdependence that heightens each player’s strengths while making the whole far greater than the sum of its parts.

Consider, for example, Ciofalo and pianist John di Martino’s sweetly blasé arrangement of “Comes Love,” with singer and bassist (Marcus McLaurine) lovingly twined throughout the song’s first half, then drummer Matt Wilson tiptoeing in to extend their tender embrace. Or take “You Took Advantage of Me,” too often treated with peppery urgency but here transformed by Ciofalo and Wilson into a sultry pas de deux. Or listen to how Wilson opens Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita” like a slow-breaking sunrise, with the heat gradually rising as di Martino, McLaurine and guitarist John Hart climb aboard, the ensemble hitting high noon with a blazing finish. Elsewhere, saxophonist Joel Frahm is woven into the tight troupe on an eight-minute “Midnight Sun” as bracing as ice wine, an “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” that superbly alternates between cantor and gallop (with Frahm adding a marvelously whinnied solo) and an inspired melding of Kurt Elling and Curtis Lundy’s “Orange Blossoms” with the Gershwins’ “Summertime.” It all adds up to a disc that elevates Ciofalo and company to the same exalted league as the Tierney Sutton Band.

Originally Published