A fan of Roseanna Vitro for a while since the release of Clarity: Music of Clare Fischer however I don't know some of her deep back catalogue. A reissue of Listen Here is newly available for download and above all insight. Tough love is the Vitro way. There is no slush, the big faultline substance sloshing all over jazz vocals especially when they land in a vintage style. That is when singers dobedobedoobe all night long and fake the feeling. None of that here because Vitro just dobedobedoes, no aching. She can really scat without loving the fact that she can.
Her voice is a kind of a mezzo but she goes a little higher than you might expect. When she does go low for instance on her beautiful treatment of 'A Time for Love' it works and she fully understands Paul Francis Webster's words as she sings Johnny Mandel's melody and better still conveys their sense. My favourite version of the song is Jackie Ward's incidentally (Janet Leigh mimed Ward's vocal for An American Dream). Vitro, whose register is deeper, does the song justice magnificently, Barron is perfect as an accompanist.
Listen Here was released initially in 1984 and picked up pretty good reviews however jazz critics as a community have usually a downer on jazz vocals so you have to bear this bias in mind every time that you pick up a review. Maybe that will change when the crappier critics out there get over themselves and address their flaws. Don't hold your breath.
One of the very greatest pianists in jazz Kenny Barron is on this record and the very popular Mwandishi bassist Buster Williams (eg ''Mchezaji'') joins him, best heard on the gorgeously swinging 'Easy Street', and drummer Ben Riley (who passed away in 2017). Tenor saxist Arnett Cobb has also died since the initial release of Listen Here. He wails beautifully on 'Love You Madly.'
Overall I hear a lot of Carmen McRae in Roseanna's approach. That ''tough love'' thing again. Vitro may be something of a disciple in the best sense, inspired but not beholden to that remarkable sound.
Highlights? Before coming to them I must say I don't like the treatment of 'This Happy Madness' the only flaw on the album only because it just doesn't move me as much as the rest. More positively Barron's intro on 'Centerpiece' however is the opposite, a huge highlight and actually you could buy this record to listen to Vitro and then listen again just to hear Barron's comping, it works on both levels. Ultimately if you love to hear the sort of jazz vocals album that you didn't think could even exist any more in this uncaring world, even in the 1980s, then you will thank your lucky star. SG
Reissued via the Roseanna Vitro Bandcamp page