Singer Judi Silvano studied dance and music at Temple University and began collaborating with other East Coast jazz musicians in the late 1970s. With the major influence of Ella Fitzgerald in her early years, Silvano mixes classical, jazz, mainstream and free jazz styles.
In the liner notes to Vocalise, she writes, “beautiful music and good technique go beyond any style.” Silvano’s first release as a leader presents a well-rounded set in many styles, with support from Vic Juris on guitars, Drew Gress on acoustic bass, Bob Meyer on drums, Dave Ballou on trumpet, Oscar Noriega on alto sax & bass clarinet, and Joe Lovano guesting for several numbers on tenor sax, drums, and percussion.
The title track is a composition by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff presented as a wordless vocal piece, with the electric guitar of Juris supplying a vocal-like texture. “Vocalise II” is an outside approach to the same melody with a different lineup of trumpet and reeds supporting the vocal lines. Ravel’s “Pavane,” Ellington’s “All Too Soon,” Strayhorn’s “Daydream,” Mingus’ “Weird Nightmare” and Monk’s “Looking Back” pay tribute to these legendary composers and present unique approaches to their work.
But it’s the singer’s own compositions that provide the most excitement. Silvano’s “Heuchera Americana” is a modal piece with an infectious repeating melodic theme and many changes in the rhythmic form. With salutes to Monk, Bach, and rock, the arrangement places a trumpet / alto sax duo trading fours behind the unison blend of guitar and vocalist, and offers everyone a chance to stretch. The singer’s “It’s So Amazing” presents Lovano on percussion, with a natural melodic style fitting hand in hand with the music, which is delivered first with lyrics and later with scat-singing.
Over half the tracks use lyrics, and a common bond throughout the set is a careful blending of timbres in pairs, such as guitar / voice, saxophone / voice, trumpet / saxophone, and guitar / trumpet. Vic Juris proves himself a more than able partner throughout the session, and Joe Lovano delivers trademark solos on “All Too Soon,” “Looking Back,” and Silvano’s composition “Bass Space.” Recommended.
– Jim Santella, All About Jazz, May 1, 1997