Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Irene Jalenti: Dawn (Antidote)

A review of the vocalist's debut album

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.
Irene Jalenti: Dawn
The cover of Dawn by Irene Jalenti

Today, even though the worldwide jazz art form is vibrant, too many musicians record before they have something significant to say. Irene Jalenti is not one of them.

She was born in 1980 in Terni, Italy but was educated in the United States. She has a bachelor’s degree from Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and a master’s from Howard University in Washington, D.C. She has been active on the jazz scene of “the DMV” (the District, Maryland and Virginia) for over a decade. But she waited to make a record until she felt she was ready.

The wait is over. Dawn announces the arrival of a distinctive, fully formed singer. Jalenti has a deep, complex, compelling voice and the emotional authenticity that only comes with life experience. She is well supported here by her working DMV rhythm section (pianist Alan Blackman, bassist Jeff Reed, drummer Eric Kennedy). Three impact players make appearances as guests: trumpeter Sean Jones, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, and guitarist Cristian Perez.

Jalenti writes some of her own songs and composes musical settings for poems. (“Alma Desnuda,” by Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni, is pure gliding grace.) But the best moments on Dawn are songs you thought you knew until you heard Jalenti sing them. Her dark voice reveals unsuspected nuances in familiar material. “Let It Be” is a newly triumphant testament. When Jalenti proclaims, “There will be an answer!” you believe her. “How Deep Is the Ocean?” is similarly personal and dramatic; her interpretation turns the song’s rhetorical questions into a powerful declarative ceremony. “Beautiful Love” is sheer exhilaration. Jalenti rephrases it into lines of irregular length. Then, with overdubs of herself, she lavishes upon it a choir of scatting voices. Then Sean Jones flies away with it.

Now that Irene Jalenti has started making records, let’s hope she won’t stop.

Learn more about Dawn on Amazon & Apple Music!

Thomas Conrad

Thomas Conrad has a BA from the University of Utah and an MA from the University of Iowa (where he attended the Writers Workshop). He taught English at Central State University in Ohio, then left the academic world for the private sector. His affiliation with publications such as JazzTimes, Stereophile, The New York City Jazz Record and DownBeat has enabled him to sustain active involvement in two of his passions: music and writing.