Review: By Scott Yanow / Los Angeles Jazz Scene
MESSINA ALBUM REVIEW 2012
During this live show from New York's Iridium which is his fifth CD, Tony Messina is sympathetically accompanied by pianist Barry Levitt, bassist Chip Jackson and drummer Victor Jones. He comes out swinging on Day In, Day Out, puts warmth into My Funny Valentine, caresses the melody of Blue Moon, and introduces three fine originals: Jazz'd, the light-hearted Mile High Club and Lifetimes.
Particularly impressive is how Messina is able to come up with fresh statements on such familiar numbers as On Broadway (which he swings and scats on with enthusiasm), Georgia On My Mind, How High The Moon (a tribute to Ella but without Messina emulating her phrases) and On Green Dolphin Street.The many concise solos of Barry Levitt and Chip Jackson are an asset throughout and the tight trio is expert at matching Tony Messina's phrasing.
Everything about this set works quite well,
making Live In New York City Tony Messina's definitive recording
so far. It is easily recommended to fans of crooners, vintage
American songs, and swinging singing in general.
"Rated R: For Romantics Only" Review by
Lenny Bloom / Jazz Note
Phrasing is what tony Messina does best. Either you have it or you don't. His latest CD, Rated R: For Romantics Only (R & M Jazz Records), is loaded with meaningful lyrics ansd smooth rhythm licks. Messina knows them all, because for years he's played the club and concert scene all over the world with jazz groups and big bands.
The bulk of the CD features Messina interpreting standards by the likes of Rogers and Hart, the Beatles, Bacharch, and David Jimmy Webb, and Cole Porter. This is Messina's strong suit. His versions remind you of when and here you were when you first heard those songs. Music does that to you- it's a love letter to life.
Messina interprets lyrics like an instrumentalist. Standout standards include "The Look of Love," the uptempo "I didn't know what time it was" and Messina's Latin take on the Italian classic, "Volare."
He's also a proficient songwriter. Messina swings like nobody can on "Jazz'd" and "Your're Hip," and on the ballad, "Lifetimes," a sadness and longing for past love affairs comes across. In the humor department is the cool hip, fun/loving, "Mile High Club." Tony's songwriting and innovative take on pop and jazz standards is fresh, unique and undeniably infectious.
Messina's accompanied by a quality quartet that includes reedman
Paul Chafin on sax and flute. He may be a Sinatra disciple, but
Tony Messina's his own man on this well-paced CD.
"This Is What I Am" Review by
Matt "Rocky" Robinson
"What makes a song great?" asks Tony Messina in the liner notes to his new album, This Is What I Am. While it may be the great phrasing of Sinatra or the feeling of Fitzgerald and Horn, Messina posits that there are vital associations between music and lyrics, singer and music as well as a necessary element of magic which truly make the difference between tunes and songs. Therefore, Messina claims, one must have a further connection with the music in order to bring out the best it has to offer. Though some of the fifteen songs on the album have been done before, Messina's connections are as strong and moving as any...drawing from the past masters while adding a new warmth and excitement to these timeless pieces.
Most of the album consists of well-chosen and even better performed versions of the "great songs" of life. A tuneful adaptation of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "One Note Samba" (including a clever piano sampling of "The Summer Knows" mellows into the Gershwin's remorseful "Isn't It A Pity." A tempo-changing "Come Rain Or Come Shine" swings into a bouncy take on Van Morrison's romantic pleas "Moondance," "Fever," "Route 66," a deep and provocative narration of "Little Boy Lost" and a fiery jungle dance through Harold Arlen's "Old Black Magic" (complete with Sinatra-Dorsey-esque full swing code) take the listener through a gambit of emotions and styles. The only constant, it seems, is Messina's talent and care in each and every performance. Every note is considered yet free. Every song digs into the minds and hearts of Messina's audiences.
However, the true high points of this diverse and fulfilled album are Messina's own compositions. From the opening "Wonders Of The World"--a fresh cabaret-ish song about finding true, monumental love a bit later in life to the move-me-to-tears (yes, I admit it) title track of heartfelt lyrics wrapped in Messina's deep, souled voice and the more up (though no less meaningful) "It's A Loving World," Messina proves his talent on both sides of the staff.
I must admit that when I first wrote this review, I neglected to mention Tony's support team. Though the squeakless wheels don't get much attention, they deserve the most appreciation. Therefore the band definitely deserves a tip o' the hat of their own drummer Pete Giannosa and bassists Hal Cragin and Andrew Hall lay down a subtle but vital rhythm line accented by pianist Andy Hollander's well-tempoed clavier. Though the musician's act as base for Tony's leaping and earthy story-telling, these selections would not be nearly as good a cappella, despite Messina's ample and abundant vocal capabilities.
Messina's lyrics are reminiscent of other masters of "The
Great American Songbook"--from Mel and Michael to Manilow
and Mathis. Still, Messina adds a freshness and energy often
lost and laid stale in these great old standards. Though the
term "classic" may be bandied about a bit too freely
these days--describing everything from colas to computers to
contemporary music--there seem to be certain elements which make
a given thing truly "classic." In trying to find this
elusive aspect, Tony Messina has done his best to keep these
old torches burning bright while adding new sparks to the embers.
With a respectful nod to those who made these songs great, Messina
seems able to find the songs' inner secrets and build on them.
In so doing, Messina has added his own fuel to the eternal flame
of the "great songs" of our proud musical canon.