Roberta Gambarini / Hank Jones

You Are There

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Roberta Gambarini is a breath of fresh air among female jazz vocalists. Gifted with superb clear diction, a warm engaging voice, and an uncanny ability to bring out the best in each song, Gambarini shines throughout this one-afternoon session, recorded without isolation booths, splicing, or overdubs. Her sole accompanist is the masterful pianist Hank Jones, a veteran who knows something about inspiring great vocalists with his inventive piano playing, having recorded with Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Anita O'Day, and Helen Merrill during a career that began over six decades prior to this session. The duo chose a wide-ranging mix of standards, show tunes, and jazz compositions (both familiar and lesser-known), along with some forgotten chestnuts of yesteryear. It is not surprising to learn that Gambarini and Jones entered the studio without a rehearsal or any arrangements, yet completed most of the 14 songs in a single take. "Stardust" is one of the most recorded works of all time, yet Gambarini recognizes the nuances within it and takes her time exploring each chorus, while Jones' elegant backing and delicious solo are flawless. Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" is one of the most demanding jazz compositions, a melancholy ballad with an unusual structure that trips up many vocalists, but Gambarini takes her time with a deliberate interpretation that ranks with any previous vocal recording of it. Their magical rendition of the sentimental ballad "You Are There" (music by Johnny Mandel, lyrics by Dave Frishberg) seems like it would be a natural choice for a film soundtrack. "Deep Purple" may have fallen out of favor in modern jazz, but Gambarini and Jones reveal its timeless quality with a sparkling performance. She's in a playful mood in "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me." This exceptional vocal/piano duo recording is clearly one for the ages.

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