Laurie Antonioli: American Dreams (2010)
In order to have specifically American Dreams, exile may be necessary. An extended stay in a foreign country lends a certain detached perspective on the homeland. For returning San Francisco-based jazz vocalist Laurie Antonioli, that foreign stay was in Graz, Austria, at KUG University, where she taught vocal jazz from 2002 until 2006.
A fortuitous aspect of Antonioli's European stay was her musical hook-up with pianist Fritz Pauer, longtime accompanist to Art Farmer. Pauer also taught at KUG, and teamed with Antonioli as a collaborative songwriter, penning five of the twelve tunes on American Dreams including the opening "Samba Nada Brahma." This surging, uplifting samba puts Antonioli's ringingly clear intonation on display; also her straightforward delivery, rich timbre and superb improvisational scatting skills, with Sheldon Brown's sweet soprano sax almost acting as a second vocalist.
Another Antonioli/Pauer gem, "Vienna Blues," is a deep, weary, wee hours ballad; featuring Antonioli's very direct, mature vocal style. The much-covered "Moonlight in Vermont" is given a bounce on Matt Clark's piano, behind Antonioli's relaxed, make-it-sound-so easy vocal, wrapped around her free-flowing, Ella Fitzgerald-like scatting.
There is a mature sensuality to Antonioli's delivery on another compositional collaboration with Pauer, "How Long." The tune brims with a a plaintive humanityan everywoman lament of separation from/uncertain reconnection with a loved one that Antonioli tells with conviction, accompanied by a Joni Mitchell-like arrangement.
The non-originals are unusual: a jazzy restructuring of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning"; a pensively beautiful, reverent, almost holy take on "America the Beautiful"; and, back to Antonioli's everywoman voice, a folksy, plain-spoken take on the traditional cowboy tune, "Dreary Black Hills," grafted onto her own "Get Up and Go," that she co-wrote with bassist John Shifflett, for a sound growing from a slow country simmer to a rolling jazz boil.
American Dreams, Antonioli's song of praise to her homeland, showcases a wonderfully confident jazz vocalist and consummate storyteller at the top of her game.
Track Listing: Samba Nada Brahma; Vienna Blues; Moonlight in Vermont; How Long; Sweet Sound of Spring; Under Consideration; Stimulus Plan; America the Beautiful; Dreary Black Hills/Get Up and Go; Just a Dream; Oh, What a Beautiful Morning; Long Way From Home.
Personnel: Laurie Antonioli: vocals; Matt Clark: piano; John Shifflett: bass; Jason Lewis: drums; Sheldon Brown: soprano and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet, harmonica; Dave McNab: acoustic and electric guitars.