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.