In his insightful liner notes to veteran jazz vocalist Roseanna Vitro’s dazzling, jazzy, bluesy and soulfully eclectic 1984 debut album Listen Here, the late entertainment legend and wildly prolific songwriter Steve Allen wrote eloquently and spot on about the then budding talent that still ring true now upon Vitro’s current re-issue of the landmark collection. Allen wrote: “Unlike most jazz singers, even some of the best, Ms. Vitro is able to project a certain amount of emotion, even theatricality, into her performance of jazz-oriented material.”
Having recently become grandparents, Vitro and her husband, veteran sound engineer Paul Wickliffe, thought this was the perfect time to introduce her fascinating earlier work to a new generation while taking stock of a storied multi-decade career that includes a Grammy nomination for a Randy Newman homage and work with numerous jazz legends – from Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans to Christian McBride and Kenny Barron, the versatile piano icon whose spritely swinging trio (bassist Buster Williams, drummer Ben Riley) makes every arrangement pop behind her supple, ultra-inviting and sometimes dramatic vocals.
Like all great jazz, the 12 tracks of Listen Here – from the sensual and sassy Jobim romp “No More Blues” to the sly, slow burning blues of “Black Coffee” – are timelessness personified, as beautifully relevant and impactful now as they were in 1984 when this gem was first released. Hitting 70 this year, Vitro has traveled many roads and released 13 albums since these sessions with Barron’s crew and saxophonist Arnett Cobb.
Yet connecting back to her formative moments via this incredible reissue is not simply a lovely exercise in jazzy nostalgia. It’s more like an opportunity to Listen Here to the reality that great jazz, and versatile jazz singers, transcend space and time, musically and otherwise.