“Extraordinary jazz vocalist Lisa Yvonne Ferraro is a soulful original and has one of the most distinctive voices heard today.”
“Lisa Yvonne Ferraro is a gifted jazz singer and a stellar performer. She entertained us and about 200 guests at Fallingwater’s Annual Twilight Tour in 2007. We liked her so much we asked her to return in 2008. Luckily for us she said, “yes.”
“Once you hear Lisa, you’re hooked on jazz. Her pure tones keep bringing you back. Whether performing for an intimate gathering or a sold out concert, Lisa Ferraro makes you feel as if she is singing just to you.”
“Most requested jazz vocalist for the concert series…and with good reason!”
“Lisa Ferraro and Mike Tomaro were a big hit with our audience! The band was so great and
Lisa’s voice is simply sublime. What a night of magical music!”
LISA FERRARO: “SERENADING THE MOON”
By Thomas Cunniffe
If you’d like a quick introduction to the talents of vocalist Lisa Ferraro, listen to the first and last tracks on this CD. Both songs are closely associated with female entertainment icons, but I doubt that you’ll think much about Billie Holiday and Audrey Hepburn while listening to Ferraro’s unique and sensitive versions of “I Wished on the Moon” and “Moon River”. She makes these standards her own, bringing a deeply soulful vocal tone to interpretations that focus equally on music and lyrics. Of course, Ferraro knows the classic performances of these songs, but she is wise enough to know that great jazz performances come through inspiration not imitation.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Ferraro now lives and works in the San Francisco Bay area. Her earliest singing experiences were in churches (of several denominations) and private parties. Her wide background includes rock, soul, ethnic and funk groups, in addition to the jazz combos and big bands that led to her dedication to improvised music and the Great American Songbook. She feels a special kinship to these standards, saying “these songs are authentic tales, so I’m telling the stories I love”. To tell these stories, she has joined forces with the veteran tenor saxophonist Houston Person, who shares her passion for great songs. Person first heard Ferraro through a recording on a friend’s iPod, and met the singer at his gig that night. Later, the two paired for a spectacular concert in Berkeley and decided to make an album together. When compiling lists of possible tunes for the CD, they found several suggestions in common, including “How Little We Know”, which Person also included on his recent quartet CD, “Naturally”.
For this CD’s rhythm section, co-producer Person recruited some of his favorite musicians from the New York City area. Pianist John Di Martino is a Philadelphia native who studied with Lennie Tristano and Don Sebesky and who has worked with a wide variety of vocalists and instrumentalists, including James Moody, Jon Hendricks, Kenny Burrell and Grady Tate. Guitarist James Chirillo was born in Waltham, Massachusetts, studied at the University of North Texas and has recorded with Daryl Sherman, Barbara Lea, Scott Robinson and Marcus Roberts. The redoubtable team of bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Lewis Nash has been a mainstay of the New York jazz scene for years. Both appeared on Person’s “Naturally” album, and as on that album, Drummond’s deeply grooving bass lines and Nash’s impeccable swing are integral parts of this album’s success.
“Serenading the Moon” is a concept album but not in the sense you might expect. While many of the songs refer to the moon, the prevailing atmosphere is of a late-night romantic mood. The opening duet on “I Wished on the Moon” starts with Ferraro’s arresting voice alone, with Di Martino entering close behind. Ferraro performs the first of several fine melodic paraphrases in her half-chorus following the piano solo. “Everything I Love” appears in a delightful straight-ahead arrangement with solos by Chirillo and Drummond. Then Person makes his first appearance with one of his specialties: a lush tenor obbligato on a great ballad, “Maybe You’ll Be There”. Ferraro’s heartfelt reading makes the lyrics come alive, and Person offers a contrasting but equally compelling solo statement. Duke Ellington’s bluesy “I’m Just a
Lucky So-and-So” was a natural choice for this ensemble, and it’s clear that everyone was having a great time recording the tune. Drummond and Nash dig the groove a little deeper, and Ferraro, Person, Di Martino and Chirillo serve up the grits n’ gravy.
Johnny Mercer’s “Skylark” provides the album’s title, and Ferraro’s interpretation holds a delicate balance between the original melody and her own inventions. Listen especially as she expertly negotiates the melodically-challenging bridge. Her version of the Gershwin evergreen “Love Walked In” opens with Nash’s delightful brushwork as the only accompaniment, and the powerful swing of the final chorus is guaranteed to lift you from your seat. You might not recognize “Cuando Vuelva a Tu Lado” from the verse, but the main melody is well-known from recordings by Dinah Washington and Coleman Hawkins. Ferraro sings it in the original Spanish version and the lyrics (printed elsewhere in this booklet) reveal a subtly different message than the English song version.
“How Little We Know” is best-known from the Frank Sinatra recording; Ferraro and Person show why it should be performed more often. “Teach Me Tonight” is much better-known, of course, but I’ve rarely heard the tough-and-tender sentiments realized as well as on this recording. The lightly-swinging treatment of “You’d Better Love Me” echoes the flighty message of the lyrics, and both Ferraro and Person offer superbly-constructed improvisations. Then Person introduces one of the greatest of all ballads, Vincent Youmans’ “More Than You Know”, sung to soulful perfection by Ferraro. The chemistry between Ferraro and Person is especially strong here, as both musicians express the yearning that is so deeply embedded in the song. Mirroring the opening track, the closing “Moon River” is a duet, this time for Ferraro and Chirillo. It is a touching performance, dedicated to Ferraro’s maternal grandmother, who owned a music box that played this song to the action of a gently rotating water wheel.
Ferraro considers herself both a storyteller and an interpreter, and it’s clear that she is a master of both.. She looks for songs that evoke strong feelings within her, so that she can be the conduit for her audience. But she also has the musical knowledge and technique to invent her own subtle variations on classic melodies. Along with her companions on this recording, she displays accessible but thought-provoking interpretations of a dozen classic songs. She told me that she believes in always offering the best that she can give. On “Serenading the Moon”, she has accomplished that goal many times over.
"One of the best vocal albums to come along so far this year! Her ballads are heartfelt and passionate. When the tempo picks up, she does indeed swing. This lady can sing!" Joe Lang, Jersey Jazz
"This recording takes Ferraro straight to the top ranks!" Mark S Tucker acousticmusic.com
"I love this recording! Thank you, thank you, thank you."
Herb Young, International Association of Jazz Record Collectors
"Serenading the Moon" is delicious. Miss Ferraro has a sensual voice, with a subtle vibration which makes me fall in love." , France