Laurie Antonioli: American Dreams

It’s ironic, really, that one of America’s foremost jazz vocal instructors is comparatively little known as a jazz vocalist. It’s equally ironic that so exceptional a jazz teacher garnered her training less from formal classes than from studying three masters: Nancy King, Mark Murphy and Pony Poindexter. Her work as an educator began in 2002 at KUG University in Graz, Austria, and it was there she began collaborating with pianist and composer Fritz Pauer.

Five of their joint efforts form the backbone of this cunning reverse travelogue, which examines the tremendous pull of home and its familiar comforts one feels from distant shores. American Dreams opens with two ostensibly Austria-centric collaborations: the sizzling, propulsive “Samba Nada Brahma,” shaped of the homesickness for the Marin countryside Antonioli felt upon discovering the Vienna woods, and the dreamily melancholy “Vienna Blues,” which speaks to the hopeless desire of finding an ideal locale to rekindle a fading romance. Their “How Long” paints a stirringly plaintive portrait of a woman’s wait for her lover’s return, while “Sweet Sound of Spring,” with its folk underpinnings, examines the intense-if too often overlooked-beauty of the familiar.

Antonioli returns to domestic musical soil for an arresting, angular “Moonlight in Vermont,” a languid “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” wide as the Oklahoma sky, and a delightfully twangy “Dreary Black Hills” that opens up to reveal the glorious expansiveness of her own “Get Up and Go.” But it is her gently soaring, blues-lined “America the Beautiful,” arranged by guitarist Dave McNab, that truly brings the album home.