Though it marks her debut on Zoho Records, Vanessa Racci’s second album Jazzy Italian is at heart a beautifully conceived extension of the homage the wondrously stylish, sweetly sophisticated jazz vocalist and cabaret singer began paying to the glorious music of her heritage on her first independently released collection Italiana Fresca. The major difference is that with the exception of “Volare,” the selections are all in English, reflecting the vast, multi-generational influence Italian American singers, composers, musicians and bandleaders have had on popular music.
Over the course of a generous 13 track set list – including the hip, sassy and easy swinging original “Come Back Home With Me” – she applies her graceful gossamer soul (buffeted by the tasteful, vibrant arrangements of producer Steven Feifke and Glafkos Kontemeniotis) to both obvious choices (Henry Mancini’s “Moon River”) and many delightfully lesser-known tunes (some downright obscure!) that allow us to explore their place in Italian American history.
One of the most unique is “At The Jazz Band Ball,” which traces back to the first set of compositions by Nick LaRocca and the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1917. At the start of what evolves into a dynamic brassy big band arrangement, Racci does a sly vocal-horn dance with brass trombonist Alex Jeun. Guy Lombardo’s in the house as the singer brings the full sultry swagger of her personality to “Coquette,” while Louis Prima’s “A Sunday Kind of Love” has a more charming, laid back flow.
Of course, Frank Sinatra’s represented (via the sublime choice of the heartbreaking “I’m A Fool To Want You”), but the deeper pleasure of Racci’s journey through jazzy Italia come from the catalogs of John Pizzarelli (another subtly swinging romantic charmer, “A Lifetime or Two”) and especially Chick Corea, whose Return to Forever gem “You’re Everything” takes flight on the wings of Feifke’s percussive piano and Racci’s colorful, freewheeling phrasing. Jazzy Italian is also available for purchase on a sharply packaged vinyl!