It seems incredible that Roberta Gambarini didn't win the Thelonious Monk Jazz Vocal Competition but she was new to the U.S., having just arrived from her native Italy. But with each new release, she has demonstrated that she is easily the most accomplished vocalist of the competitors for the prize, while pianist Hank Jones, who knows a thing or two about great singers, refers to her as the "greatest vocalist to come along in the past 60 years." With a rhythm section rotating between three talented up-and-coming pianists Tamir Hendeman, Eric Gunnison, or Gerald Clayton) plus veteran bassists George Mraz, Neil Swainson, or Chuck Berghofer and seasoned drummers Jake Hanna, Al Foster, Jeff Hamilton, or Montez Coleman, Gambarini works her magic with familiar standards and a few unexpected choices. She has a love of Cole Porter's songs, opening with a touching, richly textured "So in Love," a virtual rhapsody in a duet with piano. She restores the oft-omitted verse to "Get Out of Town" then delivers a driving rendition that shows off her gift for interpreting a song that has likely been recorded by all vocal jazz greats who have preceded her, proving she belongs in their company; she is joined by the soft tenor sax of James Moody. Her rapid-fire scatting is a highlight of her brisk treatment of "From This Moment On." Gambarini is also very comfortable looking outside of jazz for material, adapting Willie Nelson's "Crazy" with a master's touch, with subtle trumpet added by Roy Hargrove, while she has equal success with a medley of Beatles songs, including a moving "Golden Slumbers" that segues into a breezy "Here, There and Everywhere." But Gambarini's hilarious lyrics for Johnny Griffin's blues "The JAMFs Are Coming" (retitled "You Ain't Nothin' But a J.A.M.F.") prove to be the big surprise, showing off her incredible scatting range and sense of humor, though like a true lady, she never specifies what Griffin meant by a JAMF (hint: an acronym starting with "Jive Ass"). Roberta Gambarini continues to shine brightly as one of top jazz vocalists of her generation with this outstanding release.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden