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Caterina Zapponi: Romantica

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Though Caterina Zapponi was born in Rome and raised among Italy’s artistic cognoscenti (her mother is a singer of French origin, her screenwriter father crafted both Roma and Satyricon with Federico Fellini), it was a viewing of the Cole Porter musical High Society that ignited her desire to study jazz in America. She earned a scholarship to Berklee and subsequently finished fourth in the 1994 Monk vocal competition. But her biggest break came later in the ’90s, when she met pianist Monty Alexander, who, as her husband, manager and frequent accompanist, has facilitated her musical maturation.

Alexander was the cornerstone of her multilingual debut album, 2001’s Universal Love Songs, and is again for this long-overdue sophomore release. While the first album provided a lovely introduction, Zapponi’s ease and assuredness have since grown exponentially. Favoring a smoldering style that is equal parts Julie London and Françoise Hardy, she again opts for a cross-cultural playlist, venturing from a shimmering “Stardust” sung in Italian and sweltering “Estate” to a breathy “Que reste-t’il de nos amours” and lazily inviting “Non Dimenticar.” The mood is mellow and seductive (even when she salutes Count Basie in a clever French reworking of “L’il Darlin'”), much enhanced by all-star support that includes dual Pizzarellis (guitarist Bucky and bassist Martin), guitarist Frank Vignola, violinist Kristian Jorgensen and Etienne Charles on the lute-like cuatro.

Originally Published