Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cinzia Spata: Into the Moment

Koine Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Into the Moment

Cinzia Spata may be new to U.S. jazz fans, but this Italian-born artist is an internationally acclaimed vocalist. Actually, she’s much more than just a vocalist; she composes, arranges and writes lyrics. She regards her voice as an instrument, and uses it as such. Although this album is the first she has recorded in the States, it’s her third as a leader, and it’s a swinging joy!

The first indicator of a vocalist's quality is the caliber of the supporting musicians. The artists in Spata's supporting quintet are superior, and most of them are — or have been — associated with the prestigious Berklee College. They include Bruce Barth on piano, Dave Clark on bass, Yoron Israel on drums, Ken Cervenka on trumpet and flugelhorn, and George Garzone playing tenor sax. This group, by itself, is one of best combos I’ve heard in a long time.

When joined by Spata, the result is a great, great album.

Many jazz genres are represented in the menu. Spata scats with the best — just listen to "Questar" and "Carlos" — and her expanded vocal range is evident on her cooking version of "My Favorite Things."

I've generally found that singers who scat can't always do ballads beautifully, but that’s not the case with Spata; her performances on the lovely "Widow in the Window" and "Soul Eyes" are quite moving. And I particularly enjoyed two lesser-known tracks: Bill Evans’ "Very Early" and Charles Mingus’ take on Duke Ellington’s "Sounds of Love."

Nor can I ignore Spata's version of "Tea for Two." I never expected to hear anything on par with Anita O’Day’s performance of this song at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, but Spata's take matches it.

What an opening act for an entry onto the U.S. jazz stage. Spata is a keeper.

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