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Roberta Gambarini at Catalina

Scott Yanow - LA Jazz Scene

January 7, 8, 2024. There are many talented female jazz singers currently on the scene today, but if I could only pick a single vocalist to sing a long note, Roberta Gambarini would be the one. Her tone is beautiful in every register in her large range, her delivery is powerful yet often tender, and her phrasing and articulation are impeccable. Plus she is a master of the bebop vocabulary and can outswing nearly anyone. Despite her shortage of current recordings (a situation that might change soon), very few singers in any field are on her level.

At Catalina Bar & Grill, Roberta Gambarini was joined by pianist Tamir Hendelman, bassist Chuck Berghofer, and drummer Roy McCurdy, a perfect rhythm section. She began the night by singing Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Mood” (which with Jon Hendricks’ lyrics has been renamed “Monk’s Prayer”) slow, unaccompanied, and perfectly in tune as usual. Among the other songs that she uplifted with the assistance of the trio were “Isn’t This A Lovely Day,” “You Taught My Heart To Sing” (a high-powered rendition during which she paid tribute to James Moody), “No More Blues” (sung in Portuguese), “You Must Believe In Spring” (a duet with Hendelman), Jimmy Heath’s “Without You,” her now- 2/2 famous vocalese version of “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” (bringing back the solos of Sonny Stitt, Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins), “Something To Live For,” “Centerpiece,” and “Just Squeeze Me.” 


Whether scatting passionately or caressing a ballad, Roberta Gambarini put on a well- rounded and often-dazzling performance. She continues to improve each year which, considering the level she was at 20 years ago, is rather remarkable.

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