Music

Roseanna Vitro: Thoughts of Bill Evans: Conviction

Ben Varkentine

Roseanna Vitro

Thoughts of Bill Evans: Conviction

Label: A-Records
US Release Date: 2001-03-06
Amazon
iTunes

You know a jazz singer's album is in trouble when you keep wishing the singer would stay quiet, so you could hear the music. That was my experience of Roseanna Vitro's tribute to the pianist Bill Evans.

Vitro's band is wonderful. Pianists Fred Hersch, Mark Soskin and Allen Farnham each distinguish themselves equally and bassist Eddie Gomez, who actually played with Evans, gives melodic assist especially on the opening "My Bells". I enjoyed hearing them play together, but . . . well, I've already indicated what I think is wrong with Thoughts of Bill Evans.

It isn't that Vitro doesn't have a rich voice, she does. But there's just something about her tone which is rather stale. She's good, but I don't think she's better than any other New York jazz singer, if you see what I mean -- competent, but nothing that stops the breath. She never seems to fully emotionally connect with the music, and tends to attack where I would have preferred her to be a little more laid-back and mellow. Time after time on this recording, one of the three pianists featured sets the scene and send ripples across the soul. And then Vitro dives in, and it's like having the still, serene beauty of the water broken by a loud swimmer.

Another thing: This music doesn't need words. The All-Music Guide has said that "Evans' musical structures can be difficult to deal with just as instrumentals, never mind when lyrics have been added. His music can be jagged and quirky and was usually composed without any idea of accommodating the needs of a lyricist." It shows. Even Gene Lees, who worked with Evans himself and is the most-featured lyricist on this album, was unable to come up with anything which gives to, rather than cutting into, the songs.

I don't question that Vitro's passion for the work of Evans is as genuine as anyone else who has ever paid tribute to the pianist. In a way, her voice is at it's best here on the wordless vocals, when she becomes another instrument in a fine band. But, as soon as the lyrics attach themselves to the songs, they sink like a weighted balloon. I sympathize with Ms. Vitro. It cannot be easy being a jazz singer in 2001. But, for all her conviction, this is not an album that really sells her to me.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors


David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Music

Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.

Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Music

South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.

Music

Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.