Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Venissa Santi Big Stuff / Afro Cuban Holiday Sunnyside 2013

venissa album art

Venissa Santi boldly goes where few vocalists have the chops to tread, Billie Holiday!
Brent Black / @CriticalJazz

A jazz singer covering Billie Holiday has become so cliche it is almost like a pop singer covering Adele. Sometimes there are certain artists best left alone, the bar has been set so high that any attempt at a cover will almost immediately pale in comparison. Vocalist Venissa Santi and her latest Big Stuff / Afro Cuban Holiday are indeed the exception to the rule.

Legendary jazz vocal icon Billie Holiday set a bar for emotional connectivity and soulfulness in presentation with so many tunes that hitting this raw organic sweet spot has been next to impossible for any vocalist. Venissa Santi's riff on Holiday is made special by that rare blend of tone, timbre and timing coupled with an emotive quality coming from a place far deeper than her soul that makes Big Stuff just that, perhaps the finest homage to Holiday one may hear. This is Afro-Cuban-Blues, an emotional channeling of respect and smoldering melancholy that manages to make the tunes long associated with Holiday come alive yet again in perhaps the only format that could capture that original spirit.

All the expected tunes are here with the notable exception of "God Bless The Child" which Santi is still in the processing of reimaginging into a format that would be more appropriate such as a "God Bless The Child" suite. "You're My Thrill" is the jazz vocal equivalent of that sexy little black dress while "Travelin' Light" is a vocal hybrid between the sounds of Cuba and New Orleans which simply translates into pure flavor! "That Old Devil Called Love" embraces the Afro-Cuban vibe and vivid imagery perhaps better than any composition on the release which is making a bold statement. Simply put, this is the most consistent and artistically daring cover of the Billie Holiday catalog to date. Venissa Santi can review her own work far better than I, "It's been an extremely existential experience."

Five_star_rating : Five stars ratings Stock Photo
Tracks: On The Sunny Side Of The Street; Big Stuff; What's New; My Man; Strange Fruit; Stormy Weather; You're My Thrill; Travelin' Light; Involved Again; That Old Devil Called Love; I Cover The Waterfront/ Monk's Dream; You Better Go Now.

Personnel: Venissa Santi: Vocals; Tim Thompson: Trumpet; Chris Aschman: Trumpet; Jef Lee Johnson: Guitar; John Stenger: Piano; Jason Fraticelli: Bass; Francois Zayas: Drums / Percussion.
All arrangements by Francois Zayas.