Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Laurie Antonioli & Richie Beirach, Varuna

Jazz vocalist Laurie Antonioli seems perfectly matched with the piano subtleties of Richie Beirach in their album Varuna (Origin 82698). Laurie has a superbly vibrant vocal instrument that she puts to beautiful use on this set. Phrasing, tone, pitch control and artistry are out front in the best ways here. Richie Beirach has not been in my ears much in later days (and I have no idea if he has made himself relatively scarce or I have simply missed his new recordings) but he comes through on this duo with all the mastery and pianistic musicality that has been his hallmark.

The program alternates between standards and not-so-standard standards ("Summer Night," Scriabin's "Prelude in E-flat minor," Trane's "Impressions," "Over the Rainbow," "My Funny Valentine")....and some very interesting originals (co-authored by the two: "Varuna," "Inside My Dreams," "My Love," and the three-way invention with the addition of bassist of Pepe Berns for "Resolution Suite," plus an Antonioli-Patitucci penned "You're an Angel Now"). These are substantial, striking originals and the standards are given special twists and very musical treatment.

Vocalists like Antonioli do not grow on trees. She has the complete package and Beirach quite clearly is inspired by her artistry to play as wonderfully as one might wish.

This is one stunning set! The year is yet young, but it comes through as a highlight of vocal albums thus far, and Beirach sounds fabulous, too!

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