VANESSA RACCI, A STUNNING NEW POP-JAZZ VOICE GIVES ITALIAN-AMERICAN CLASSICS A JAZZ SPIN ON DEBUT RECORDING ITALIANA FRESCA
Celebrates Album Release With One Night Only
Performance at New York City’s Birdland
June 4th, 2017 at 6 PM
315 West 44th St., New York, NY 10036
www.birdlandjazz.com, 212 581-3080
“A wonderful warm-hearted listen from top to bottom!”.....Jane Monheit
(New York, NYApril 17, 2017)--On her debut recording Italiana Fresca, scheduled for release on May 19, 2017, sultry songstress VANESSA RACCI takes a fresh approach to classic pop, reviving Italian-American standards associated with the likes of Dean Martin (“Return to Me”), Al Martino (“Al di là”), Louis Prima (“Buona Sera”), and Connie Francis (“‘O sole mio”). RACCI, a New Yorker of Italian American heritage, will celebrate and launch the album’s release with a special one night only performance at the legendary New York Jazz Club, Birdland on Sunday, June 4th.
Her Birdland show, says Vanessa, “will be an ode to Italian-American music, family, and culture, with fun personal anecdotes.” The goal, she explains, is “to express the modern Italian-American female perspective.
Praised for her “truly remarkable voice and style” (Mike Bennett, WHUD radio), Vanessa has used big-band, small-group, and Afro-Cuban jazz as well as lush strings to give that music an exciting new sound. At its heart is her shimmering, sweet-and-sour tone, impeccable musicianship, and Italian passion. “I absolutely love the idea behind this album,” says the acclaimed jazz singer Jane Monheit, whose master class at Birdland brought Vanessa to the attention of owner Gianni Valenti. “Vanessa,” adds Jane, “with her clear, mellow alto, has taken songs treasured for generations and completely redefined them.”
The arrangements and piano-playing come from Yaron Gershovsky (longtime musical director for the Manhattan Transfer) and Glafkos Kontemeniotis, a respected fixture on the New York jazz scene. Leading the team was David Finck, a much-sought-after producer and one of the most admired bassists in jazz. Having worked with George Michael, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, and Gladys Knight, David knows all about vocal artistry; he was knocked out by Vanessa’s “natural sense of rhythm and flow, and her wonderful ability to communicate both musical and poetic language.”
Italiana Fresca was inspired by Vanessa’s late grandfather, Frank Prisciantelli, who passed in 2016. He lived in the basement apartment of her family home in Thornwood, New York, and his cherished Italian records resounded through the house. The album commemorates Frank and the music he adored, much of which is in danger of fading away. “I want to keep these songs alive for a new generation of Italian-Americans,” says Vanessa.
She had other missions in mind, one of them feminist. “I feel these songs show the many moods of the Italian woman. I wanted to share them in the female Italian voice, which is not as well represented as the male voice. I also wanted to modernize them, while still bringing out the original meaning.” To that end, she wrote new English lyrics for several songs. “‘O sole mio” is famous in the U.S. as “It’s Now or Never,” Elvis Presley’s 1960 hit. But the words he sang bear no relation to the original ones; Vanessa’s version restores the ethereal quality of a love song whose Italian lyric proclaims, “you are my sunshine.” The comic favorite “C’é la luna (mezz’o mare)” (There’s a Moon in the Middle of the Sea), made famous by Dean Martin and Louis Prima, gains a blast of new energy from a swinging big-band arrangement. Yaron puts an Afro-Cuban spin on the 1950s hit “Tu vuò fà l’americano” (You Try to Act the American), about a big shot eager to flaunt his Americanized ways; and the object of his affection, who calls his bluff. Whatever the song, Vanessa’s jazz feeling and acting ability bring it vividly to life.
ITALIANA FRESCA/VANESSA RACCI
U.S. Release Date/May 19, 2017
“She’s a sensual stylist who pours herself into the song.” (Bruce Apar, North County News, Yorktown, NY)
Vanessa Racci’s 2017 debut album, Italiana Fresca, heralds the breakthrough of a fresh sound in jazz: a sweet-and-sour, wide-ranging alto with a passion and sex appeal born of her Italian-American heritage. On this recording, Vanessa puts a modern, jazz spin on the Italian songs she heard as a child; several are updated with her own English lyrics. Vanessa’s producer, the renowned bassist David Finck, has raved about her “natural sense of rhythm and flow, and her wonderful ability to communicate both musical and poetic language.” Lynn DiMenna of Cabaret Scenes magazine seconds his enthusiasm: “Confident and fearless, she goes where the story and the music take her and her exceptional and supportive sidemen are with her every step of the way”. Acclaimed jazz vocalist, Jane Monheit, also endorsed the project; “Vanessa, with her clear, mellow alto, has taken songs treasured for generations and completely redefined them.”
Vanessa was born of a working-class Italian family in Thornwood, New York. She began singing when she was four. “Music was very much alive in my family,” she says. Its source was her grandfather, Frank Prisciantelli, who lived in the basement apartment. Vanessa’s early musical schooling came largely from his record collection. He took great pride in his Italian-American heritage and filled the house with its most beloved voices, including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Vanessa’s favorite, Connie Francis. Vanessa and her grandfather spent countless happy hours singing those tunes together.
Her vocal promise had been clear from the age of four, when she began singing at family parties; at twelve she started performing in local theater. At Westlake High School in Thornwood, she won lead roles in several school productions. Her portrayal of Christine in Phantom of the Opera earned her the coveted Helen Hayes Award. But despite her talents, her traditional family urged her to take a seemingly more stable path, and after school she embarked on a career in marketing. Still, her musical dreams kept haunting her. “I said to myself, I have to pursue this, because if I don’t I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life. That’s when I discovered jazz. Those were the songs I found most authentic to my voice.”
Vanessa was no stranger to jazz; her grandfather’s cousin was Tony Mottola, the celebrated studio guitarist who played on thousands of albums and in the Tonight show orchestra. She gathered the pop-jazz standards she knew and learned many more; from there, she began presenting solo shows throughout Manhattan and Westchester. In 2012 she launched a collaboration with Glafkos Kontemeniotis, the respected jazz pianist, bandleader, and accompanist. Glafkos, she says, was “a golden find. He was patient, and had the training and reputation to take my music to the next level.”
In 2012, Vanessa became a finalist in the MetroStar Talent Challenge, an annual competition held at the Metropolitan Room, one of New York’s foremost cabarets. A reviewer for Cabaret Exchange wrote that Vanessa “got the most vociferous applause for the evening” for her performance of “Cry Me a River.” The following year she brought her own show to the Metropolitan Room. New York Cabaret Today called her “a star on the rise,” adding: “This twenty-something is what cabaret is all about—fine, sexy, informed vocals, a winning personality, and a beautiful appearance. Vanessa can sing a modern ballad, a showtune, a blues tune, and do any jazz arrangement with ease and class.”
Eager to keep learning, she took a master class with the star jazz singer Jane Monheit at Birdland in New York. Owner Gianni Valenti was impressed with what he heard, and encouraged her to make an album.
A theme occurred to her in 2016, immediately after her grandfather’s death. Vanessa decided to honor him by revisiting the Italian songs he loved, while giving them a jazz flavor. In Italiana Fresca, Vanessa is surrounded by a bevy of top jazz players; the piano playing and arrangements are supplied by Kontemeniotis and Yaron Gershovsky, longtime musical director for the Manhattan Transfer.
Now living in Tarrytown, New York, Vanessa maintains a growing performance schedule. Last year’s highlights included a fundraiser at the Italian American Museum in New York to aid victims of the summer earthquake in central Italy; Oscar-nominated actor Chazz Palminteri hosted the event. Vanessa’s 2017 agenda will include stops at Birdland and the Friars Club in Manhattan, the Winery at St. George in Lake Mohegan, New York, Jazz Forum Arts, Maureen’s Jazz Cellar in Nyack and Italian American Festivals across the East Coast.
For more information on Vanessa Racci, visit www.vanessaracci.com.
“Racci gives [the songs] imaginative jazz vocal makeovers”
- Alex Henderson, NYC Jazz Record
“A full plate of Neopolitan flavors”
– George Harris, Jazz Weekly
"Vocalist, Vanessa Racci, lovingly delivers creative arrangements of Italian classics, interpreted in a Jazz style on her excellent new album, Italiana Fresca. Highly Recommended!"
- Mark Morganelli, Executive Director, Jazz Forum Arts
"I absolutely love the idea behind this album. Vanessa, with her clear, mellow alto, has taken songs treasured for generations and completely redefined them. A wonderful, warm-hearted listen from top to bottom."
- Jane Monheit, Jazz Sensation.
"Excellent performance, great voice. You bring emotion end Class!!!"
- Ciao Tony Con Tony Pasquale, ICN Radio New York
"This is not an old school Starbucks Italian song comp. A modern gal from an old school New York Italian household heard her grandpa play his old records around the house all day long. In anti diva mode, she refashions these tunes easily into being at home on “Mob Hits” compilations for hipsters. Viola, she’s made them fresh and fun for everyone in the process. Bringing in some real jazzbos to keep it real, nobody is going to call you a Moustache Pete when you get to grooving to these classics. Fun stuff with just the right touch throughout, her cd could easily replace Jimmy Roselli’s in certain glove boxes in certain cars. Killer stuff throughout."
- Mid-West Record Review
"Vanessa Racci's, 'Italiana Fresca', was a joy to work on for this Paesana. Vanessa's clear vision for the music, guided me as a teacher and mentor."
- Jackie Presti, Vocal Coach.
"During my career, I have worked with many singers, and I can honestly say that rarely, I've come across a singer like Vanessa Racci. Her voice is golden, and her singing is superb. She is truly unique! Listening to her is a real treat!"
- Yaron Gershovsky, Manhattan Transfer Musical Director
"Vanessa Racci's CD is Al Di Lighfull"
- Bill Miller, National Radio Host
"This quite unique recoding stands out from the crowd. Vanessa Racci's great sound blends perfectly with jazzy arrangements of Classic Italian-American songs."
- Ron Forman, WKRB
Italian Radio Show Interview (Starting on 1:16:50)
Alex Henderson, for NYC Jazz Record (Page 20)