At Birdland on Sunday, July 2, Nancy Valentine will be leading a sextet with maestro John di Martino gracing the stage featuring trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, Dan Block on tenor and alto saxophones, bassist Marco Panascia and drummer Vince Cherico. They will be celebrating both the release of her CD called Lovesome and her single, “September Rain” (Lorraine Feather’s lyric version of “Chelsea Bridge”) and the rich musical legacy of Billy Strayhorn.
It was John di Martino who first introduced Valentine to “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing” and “Something to Live For,” that hooked her on Strayhorn. Blessed with the ability to effortlessly sing the wide intervals in many of Strayhorn’s songs, she immersed herself in his music, uncovering such little-known gems including “Maybe,” “Oo! You Make Me Tingle,” “So This Is Love,” “Wounded Love,” “You Better Know It,” and “You’re The One.” Her beautiful voice and deep understanding of the lyrics demonstrate that there is a great deal to be discovered and enjoyed within Strayhorn’s repertoire.
This will be Ms. Valentine’s Birdland debut, and the album her debut jazz CD, although she has studied and championed Billy Strayhorn’s music for years. Not content to sing his “greatest hits” such as “Lush Life” and “Take the ‘A’ Train,” she unearths and does justice to many of his more obscure– but superior — works that have rarely, if ever, been performed.
The singer has extensive experience as a performer since her teenage years. She had earlier careers as a trumpeter and an actress until she was convinced by renowned trumpeter Bobby Shew that she had the perfect voice to be a jazz singer and she was inspired her to “keep the love and romance” in her approach to the music. While Sarah Vaughan and Chet Baker were early influences, she has long had a sound of her own, gaining experience in both Los Angeles (where she met and learned from the great arranger, composer and pianist Tamir Hendelman) and New York, where she met the outstanding composer-arranger John di Martino, a pianist beloved by many vocalists and known as one of the world’s most lyrical pianists. Both, di Martino and Hendelman would become Valentine’s musical directors and pianists on the CD, creating arrangements that capture the essence of Strayhorn. Also part of the all-star cast on Lovesome are bassists Boris Kozlov, Jay Leonhart and Marco Panascia, drummers Victor Jones, Kenneth Washington and Tony Jefferson, trumpeters Joe Magnarelli and Dominick Farinacci, cornetist Warren Vache, tenor-saxophonist Harry Allen, altoist Dick Oatts and baritonist Gary Smulyan.
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Birdland is located at 315 West 44 Street, NYC. Phone: (212) 581-3080