Sing a Song of Bird is but another daring flight from Roseanna Vitro, a study of Charlie Parker, one of the greatest figures in jazz and popular music. This, her fifteenth record over a forty-year career, is the fulfillment of two goals. The first is to honour the musician’s creed of standing tall on the shoulders of giants (and personal heroes). Bob Dorough, Sheila Jordan, and Marion Cowings are just that, each bringing a lifetime of inspiration to Roseanna through their tireless virtuosity. Second, Roseanna’s emotional commitment to song narratives and meaningful lyrics. On Sing a Song of Bird, she flies high with Charlie Parker’s classic melodies.Album liner notes
‘People Chase’, based on ‘Steeplechase’, gets proceedings underway with a nice upbeat tempo, good alto sax from Gary Bartz along with fine piano playing from Alan Broadbent. The bass and drumming is steady throughout. The lyrics are clear, relevant to life as we tend to live it, and delivered by someone who knows how to put a jazz song across well. ‘The Scatter’, features both Roseanna Vitro and Bob Dorough on vocals and is based on the song ‘Red Cross’. Mark Gross, on alto, sets up the melody nicely with some good piano support from Jason Teborek. The playing is brisk and punches out the tune, which the vocalists match wonderfully. Bob Dorough is in fine form and the scat section from both vocalists is a fine example of good scatting. The alto and piano are excellent in the middle section with great support from drummer Bill Goodwin, and Dean Johnson on bass. ‘Bird Song’ hears the vocal talent of Sheila Jordan on the ‘Relaxin’ At Camarillo’ source tune. The lyrics tell of hearing Charlie Parker play and the effect it had. The playing from the musicians is strong throughout but it is Sheila’s vocal delivery, with her sure footed enunciation, that should take any plaudits due.
‘Parker’s Mood’ has Marion Cowings opening with a powerful vocal that is rich in tone in a blues style. Jason Teborek is in great form on the piano accompaniment as is Mark Gross on alto. This really is a terrific tune well sung and played: a joy to the ears. ‘Grapple With The Apple’ has nice Bossa Nova styling and is sung in a vibrant mode by Roseanna Vitro. The addition of Minu Cinelu on percussion is welcomed on this fun, upbeat tune. Bob Dorough takes the lead on ‘Audubon’s New Bluebird’ with his spoken word like approach that works well. As with all the previous tracks the backing from the band is first rate with piano and sax standing out – though there is Dean Johnson’s bass solo to relish along with a short drum solo from Bill Goodwin.
As the title would suggest ‘Sheila’s Jazz Child’ has Sheila Jordan’s vocals taking the lead and she delivers with aplomb. The scatting with piano backing is a joy and is underpinned with solid rhythms from bass and drums. Another good alto sax solo along with another opportunity to hear a very nice bass solo towards the end rounds off another good track. Sheila Jordan continues with lead vocals, with piano backing, on ‘Quasimodo’ on this slower tempo number that reflects on the Clint Eastwood directed film Bird. The measure picks up around the two minute mark and gradually builds and we get a short alto solo, the drum and bass playing steps forward and the piano playing becomes more expansive. This is a well constructed tune though Sheila’s voice does show its age a touch in the final few bars. ‘Now’s The Time’ has Marion Cowings back on vocal duties with a strong vocal performance, nice vocal tonality and phrasing. The bass playing on this number is terrific and matches Marion’s voice beautifully. Gary Bartz on alto puts in a very good solo and with Alan Broadbent on piano there is little that can go wrong on this track.
Mark Gross’ sax opens ‘Yardbird Suite’ with Roseanna Vitro on vocals. There is a more mellifluous feel to this number than has been heard on the album so far and it is good to hear. Dean Johnson is in good form throughout and plays a very nice bass solo, which I really enjoyed. ‘Koko/Cherokee’ features an opening solo from alto saxophonist Gary Bartz. The tempo is brisk and the playing crisp on this the only instrumental track on the album. It will not be a surprise to hear that the playing is of the highest standard with the trades between sax and drums being an example of how well movement from instrument to another and back again can be played. ‘These Foolish Things’ closes out the album and feature Roseanne Vitro, Sheila Jordan, and Bob Dorough on vocals. This is one of those times when a vocalists aging voice can be used to very good effect. This is a song about reminiscences, and the level of poignancy achieved here is simply off the chart – Bob Dorough was 92 years of age at the time of recording and Sheila Jordan 89, sadly this was to be Bob’s final studio session. The emotive delivery of this final track left me just sitting in silence as I reflected on what I had just heard, though younger listeners may not yet respond in quite the same way.
I very much enjoyed this album, this tribute to the tunes of Charlie Parker. The vocals, for the most part, had a boppish style to them and the lyrics are well penned. The musicianship was first rate throughout, not over fussy and delivered with style. This is a jazz vocal album of an age that produced some wonderful music that has stood the test of time, it is the additional lyrics that have brought something new without losing touch with the man and his music they pay tribute to.
Session 1: Roseanna Vitro – vocals; Bob Dorough – vocals; Sheila Jordan – vocals; Jason Teborek – piano; Jason Teborek – piano; Mark Gross – alto sax; Dean Johnson – bass; Dean Johnson – bass; Paul Myers – guitar (track 6); Mino Cinelu – percussion (track 5).
Session 2: Roseanna Vitro – vocals; Marion Cowings – vocals; Gary Bartz – alto sax; Alan Broadbent – piano; Dean Johnson – bass; Alvester Garnett – drums.
1. People Chase (session 2). 2. The Scatter (session 1). 3. Bird’s Song (session 1). 4. Parker’s Mood (session 2). 5. Grapple With The Apple (session 1). 6. Audubon’s New Bluebird (session 1). 7. Sheila, Jazz Child (session 1). 8. Quasimodo (session 1). 9. Now’s The Time (session 2). 10. Yardbird Suite (session 1). 11. Koko/Cherokee (session 2). 12. These Foolish Things (session 1)