Daniela Nardi: Espresso Manifesto: The Songs of Paolo Conte

The title of Toronto-based singer Daniela Nardi’s latest album alludes to the dark richness of singer-songwriter Paolo Conte, one of Italy’s most beloved artists, his nation’s answer to Jacques Brel or Leonard Cohen. But the title is equally evocative of both Nardi’s voice, a wonderfully atmospheric instrument that suggests the sensuousness of Sophia Loren blended with the earthiness of Anna Magnani, and of the dense, flavorful arrangements shaped by Nardi and her husband, pianist Ron Davis.

Recording in Umbria with Davis and seven excellent local sidemen, Nardi sings all but one of the 12 selections in Italian. She opens with a bilingual version of Conte’s most famous composition, the wonderfully mischievous “Via Con Me” with its infectious “chips chips chips” chorus, then segues into “Sotto le Stelle del Jazz,” a starry-eyed remembrance of his musical youth.

The balance of the playlist, including its sole English track, the gentle “Don’t Break My Heart” (engagingly introduced by Davis with a quote from Billy Strayhorn’s “Something to Live For”), provides stellar celebration of Conte’s dexterity. “Gioco D’Azzardo,” a colorful salute to true love’s immutability, unfolds like a lively street party while “Come di,” an appropriately witty commentary on life’s comedy, suggests a frantic Keystone Kops chase. Conversely, there’s the fiery passion of “Messico e Nuvole,” the three-in-the-morning-on-Bourbon-Street heartache of “Un’Altra Vita” and, most charming, the shimmering appreciation of simple pleasures that is “Gelato al Limon.”