Meredith d'Ambrosio

By Myself

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As a title, By Myself contains multiple levels of meaning. For starters, it's the first album on which jazz vocalist and pianist Meredith D'Ambrosio has devoted herself to the work of a single composer (Broadway songwriter Arthur Schwartz). Secondly, it's her first recording since 1981's Another Time on which she appears as the sole instrumentalist. Lastly, it is her first recording since the death of her husband, pianist Eddie Higgins. All but a few of these 14 Schwartz compositions were written with longtime partner, lyricist Howard Dietz, and most of them are standards; the two exceptions being "All Through the Night" (with Johnny Mercer) and "Then I'll Be Tired of You" (with Ernie "Yip" Harburg). In addition, there are two little-known Schwartz compositions here, "Once Upon a Long Ago" and "Through a Thousand Dreams," written with Leo Robin. D'Ambrosio's approach sounds a bit austere, at least initially. That's only because we're familiar with iconic singers -- from Sinatra and Streisand to Fitzgerald and Vaughan -- performing these tunes with more populated and complex arrangements. But D'Ambrosio's intimate setting provides a prime setting for her signature vocal interpretation of these songs. She slows tempos, transposes keys, and gives them over to her unique phrasing. Her piano actually becomes a second voice. Her sense of timing is impeccable; she isn't showy, but she is precise and flowing in her economy. With her voice she can wring nuances, impressions, and ghost traces from these melodies that we didn't know were there, and her piano knows just where to highlight them, as in "Something to Remember You By." The title track is full of simmering intensity; "High and Low," "Dancing in the Dark," and "You the Night and the Music" are sung not in the moment, but in the moment of remembering; not nostalgically, but emotionally. The closer, "Haunted Heart," is the lone exception, sung in the moment to the absent beloved, of her own ache and loneliness. The sense of restraint D'Ambrosio's so well known for serves these songs beautifully, because none of them can ever appear overwrought. Instead, they are abundant with meaning. Their melodies entwine with the lyrics in complete balance, expressing a musical poetry of the heart itself. In listening to By Myself, and long after it has ended, D'Ambrosio's voice reveals to the listener that she knows exactly what these songs mean as a highly skilled musician, and as a human being who has lived, loved, and lost.

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