Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rosanna Vitro's Delirium Blues Project Has To Serve Or Suffer

A project conjured by vocalist Roseanna Vitro and pianist/arranger Kenny Werner, the Delirium Blues Project is succinctly described by producer Jeff Levenson as ”a celebration of the blues as the basis of much popular music.” Anyway, they spent a week in August, 2007 at New York’s Blue Note and this living recording, Serve or Suffer (Half Note), was the result.

In addition to Vitro and Werner, the Delirium Blues Project features a genuine all-star horn line-up of Randy Brecker, trumpet; James Carter, tenor sax; Ray Anderson, trombone; Geoff Countryman, baritone sax; Adam Rogers, guitar; John Patitucci, acoustic and electric bass; and Rocky Bryant, drums. Bringing together the marvelous Werner arrangements with Vitro’s singing and the terrific musicians, one has a intriguing recording that provides a different take on some blues and bluesy material.

While horn dominated one should not short-change the fine playing of guitarist Rogers, yet the real musical fireworks are provided by Brecker, Carter and Anderson. The material is fresh from the opening piece of jive, What Is Hip, followed by a Tracy Nelson number, Goodnight Nelda Grebe, The Telephone Company Has Cut Us Off, with a fine vocal (Nelson was an influence on Vitro) and a choice Brecker solo. Blue is an indigo ballad with a marvelous solo from Carter while he apparently is on soprano with some serpentine playing behind the vocal on Joni Mitchell’s Be Cool, with Rogers employing a bluesy tone on his solo. Lil Green’s In the Night, may be the most familiar number here but Patitucci’s bass is the sole accompaniment for Vitro’s intimate vocal.

A funk groove underlies the rendition of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham’s ‘Cheater Man,’ on which Vitro takes a wordless solo, while on Mose Allison’s Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy, Ray Anderson growling plunger mute work would make Tricky Sam Nanton proud. Most of the players get to stretch out on the closing, Don't Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down, a tune by Eric Bibb, C. Hoglund and Maria Muldaur, whose bass line is a cousin to Green Onion/ Help Me.

This is the type of band that Al Kooper wishes he could have had thirty odd years ago with the original Blood Sweat & Tears while the sophistication of the music also suggests Steely Dan. One hopes that this aggregation was more than a one-shot deal, as this resulting recording whets the appetite for more delirium.

This review originally appeared in the July 2008 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 306) and I likely received my review copy from that publication. Here is Ms. Vitro and Kevin Mahogany singing Blue Monk.

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