REVIEW: Leonisa Ardizzone Quintet – The Scent Of Bitter Almonds

As the executive director of the Salvadori Center, a charitable New York educational foundation, Leonisa Ardizzone is making a real difference in kids’ lives. In her alternate life as the leader of the Leonisa Ardizzone Quintet, the talented jazz artist proves that she’s a multi-tasker with few equals. Her new album, The Scent Of Bitter Almonds, a follow-up to 2006’s Afraid of the Heights, gives listeners a chance to catch up with her current efforts on the musical side of things.

That earlier album’s quartet has now become a quintet with the addition of pianist Jess Jurkovic, who joins Ardizzone and her previous band-mates, guitarist Chris Jennings, bassist Bob Sabin, and drummer/percussionist Justin Hines. The laqgroup, which has been appearing around the New York area, is a solid ensemble with nice balance.

Ardizzone had some ups and downs personally during the year, and she admits that many of her choices for inclusion on the album reflect some of that conflict — as does the title of the album itself. In any case, it’s a collection of a dozen tracks, with five of those new pieces by the band’s members and the balance made up of established songs, mostly standards.

Included among them are some familiar tunes, such as “My Romance” and “Midnight Sun,” both good vehicles for Ardizzone’s singing style, which is straight-ahead and melodic — reminiscent of early jazz songbirds. On the latter piece, a track that runs almost eight minutes, her sidemen get in some nice solos with Hines’ percussion especially nicely done. On the opposite side of the coin, the group’s interpretation Ellington’s classic,”Take The ‘A’ Train,” was my least favorite.

The five compositions by the band’s members (three by Jennings, one each by Hines and Ardizzone) were a mixed bag, with my favorite probably Jennings’ “On The Ropes,” which features some nice keyboard work by Jurkovic in addition to Ardizzone’s soft vocalizing.

A nice follow-up album from the singer and her group — and well worth a listen if you enjoy the sound of traditional jazz, complete with a songbird. (Follow album link for sound clips.)

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