Possessing a warm, golden-hued tenor voice, a drummer's supple sense of swing, and the ability to dig inside a song's lyrics and uncover it's meaning, Frank Noviello is a resplendent jazz vocalist. Based in Northeastern New Jersey and regularly heard on the NJ-NYC metro jazz scene, Noviello follows-up his two previous, superlative Silk Tree releases - 2000's Frank Noviello Quartet and 2004's Getting to Know You - with the stellar Jilted. Working with his long-time accompanist, the expressive Tomoko Ohno on piano, Noviello explores with emotion and verisimilitude 12 classics depicting the darker side of love. "One way or another, everyone has experienced what these songs talk about," Frank says. "And I liked the idea of concentrating on songs that were all related to a theme." The concept of just a duo with the dynamic Ohno - an intuitive backing partner and enticing, potent improviser - also appealed to Noviello. They've worked together since 1990, when both were at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. - from which Frank graduated in 1992 with a BA in jazz performance. "Her musicianship is impeccable, she plays with a lot of enthusiasm and swing, and is wonderful in support, painting a beautiful backdrop to what I'm doing," he enthuses. "We've developed such a great rapport that I thought with just the two of us, we could delve deeper into the lyrical side of the music, get more intimate." The pair opens with Rodgers' and Hart's "Falling in Love with Love." Taken at a natty medium uptempo, the rendition reveals the leader's percolating swing feel and gift for telling a song's story. "Summer Wind," by Mayer and Mercer, was a tour de force when done as a swinger by Frank Sinatra. "We did it introspectively, much slower than he did, and I think we got closer to what lyric means," Noviello says of this touching version about a summer love that went south. The singer really nails the somber the Bonfa-Sigman beauty, "A Day in the Life of a Fool," first heard in the 1959 Marcel Camus film, "Black Orpheus." Tomoko's solo provides the perfect complement. A rumbling stride-esque piano underpins the Ellington-Bigard-Mills jazz standard "Mood Indigo," where Frank evokes plenty of blues feeling on a tune that is not a blue per se. Then there's the timeless "Body and Soul," with Johnny Green's fabulous music and words by Heyman, Sour, and Eyton, offered with the rarely-heard verse. "This is a heart-wrencher," says Frank, who delivers it just that way. Billy Strayhorn's achingly beautiful ballad "Lotus Blossom" is seldom done as a vocal, but Roger Schorr and Carol Sloane wrote telling lyrics, which have been recorded by the great Sloane, among a few others. Frank is deeply poignant on this poetic tale of another failed summer love. An upbeat version of Klenner's and Lewis' "Just Friends" again showcases the pliability of Frank's voice, his capacity to sing horn-like, and Tomoko's facility and invention. Then comes the Hubble-Golden winner, "Poor Butterfly," done by Noviello with heart. "It's an incredible melody and story of a person who waits for someone who is not coming back," he notes. The singer was so moved by saxophonist Jackie McLean's tender version of Bud Powell's "I'll Keep Loving You" - recorded on McLean's 1963 Blue Note album, Let Freedom Ring - that he decided to write words. "It's a beautiful melody by one of my favorite pianists," he relates. Ohno's arrangement of "You Don't Know What Love Is," the Raye and DePaul masterpiece, has a bustling Brazilian rhythm that lends a fresh feel. "Tomoko did a wonderful job on this," says Frank, who did likewise in yet one more tale of love and loss. "What Price Love," with words and music by Charlie Parker, was written around 1943, when he was with Jay McShann, but not recorded then. Later, in 1948, Earl Coleman waxed it as a vocal under the new name Bird gave it: "Yardbird Suite." "This is a song that was meant to be sung," says Frank, who here exhibits his formidable strengths as a scat singer. The Signorelli/Malneck/Kahn ace, "I'll Never Be the Same," taken very slowly, and boasting another passionate Noviello reading, brings this beguiling, persuasive collection to a solid end. Work well done. Zan Stewart.
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