ROSEANNA VITRO WITH GARY BARTZ
I can't imagine much better circumstances in which to hear Roseanna Vitro than those that bring her to Chicago. The vocalist rides in on the crest of her new (and best) album--Passion Dance, on Telarc--in which stylistic maturity and vocal vivacity arrive at an impressive intersection. She brings with her a guest star from that album, alto saxist Gary Bartz, himself in the midst of one of jazz's most gratifying recent resurgences and sounding like a million bucks every time he records. What's more, their local rhythm section will fall under the direction of pianist Brad Williams--and singers can find no better friend in Chicago. For that matter, the songs she sings find a pretty good friend in Vitro. When she attacks a tough mid-tempo groove, Vitro sometimes sounds as if she could physically move the stage--reaching down for something slow and sultry, she brings a hothouse sensuality to her music. She has a hearty, slicing, no-nonsense voice, and though she never loses track of the words, she thinks like a musician, specifically like a hornman: she squeezes a variety of tonal qualities from each register, and she lets the pulse of each song dictate her phrasing. Her general musicality allows her to traverse the tricky arrangements that distinguish the new CD, and she also essays the occasional scat solo, on which she displays an earnest energy: they don't always glide, but they do really swing, and they avoid the expectable cliches. As for Bartz--who dropped off the main nexus of the jazz scene for much of the 80s, returning to hometown Baltimore to regroup his life and music--he has reemerged as one of the stronger voices on his instrument, integrating 90s neoclassicism with the wailing timbres and open-ended phrasing that marked his stints with McCoy Tyner and Miles Davis nearly three decades ago. His inclusion in this gig gives Chicagoans a rare chance to catch up with his soulful intensity; it also ensures the kind of interactive fireworks that make Vitro's stage performances overshadow even her best recorded work. Friday, 10 PM, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Enid Farber.