Vanessa Racci

Artist's Note

This album is for "la mia famiglia," who kept the Italian culture alive in my home and heart through Sunday pasta, seven fish on Christmas Eve, noisy dinner tables and lots of love.  It's especially for my grandfather, Frank, who I grew up living with.  He was my babysitter, frittata chef and partner in crime.  Through him I discovered the Italian-American Songbook, hearing Connie Francis, Al Martino, Louis Prima and the lot blasting from his car windows and basement apartment.  Later in life, after a stroke, I'd sing these songs to him and watch his face light up with joy.

While he has recently passed, my goal is to keep this music alive for new jenerations of Italian-Americans with re-inspired rhythms and lyrics that represent the modern female perspective, while staying true to the original Italizan meaning.  But, no matter one's age, gender or ethnicity, my hope is that this album ignites the Italian passion inside all of us.





About the Songs

Al Di Là (Beyond) – Carlo Danida – Mogol/English lyrics by Ervin Drake: In 1961, this song won the prestigious Sanremo song festival in Italy. When songwriter Ervin Drake wrote an English lyric, “Al di là” became a staple of Italian-American crooners. Vanessa and arranger-pianist, Yaron Gershovsky, give it a breezy swing.


Guaglione (Street Urchin) – Giuseppe Fanciulli – Nicola Salerno/English lyrics by Vanessa Racci: In 1957, Dean Martin turned this Neopolitan favorite into “The Man Who Plays the Mandolino.” Vanessa’s rendition expresses the true meaning of the Italian lyric, telling the tale of a sassy woman being courted by a street urchin half her age. It does so through modernized English words and a gritty, New Orleans street sound.


‘O Sole Mio (My Sun) – Eduardo di Capua – Giovanni Capurro/English lyrics by Vanessa Racci: Elvis Presley took the melody of this 1898 classic to number one in “It’s Now or Never,” but the English lyric is unrelated to the original, which talks of seeing the sun in a beloved’s face. Vanessa pays homage to the original by writing complementary English lyrics and evoking a dreamy mood with tempo in 5/4 time.


Return to Me (Ritorna da Me) – Danny Di Minno – Carmen Lombardo: Dean Martin poured on the schmaltz in this 1958 hit, but to Vanessa, the song recalls a pivotal moment in her relationship, and she sings it seriously and simply, with just piano.


Scapricciatello (Do You Love Me Like You Kiss Me?) – Pacifico Vento – Ferdinando Albano/English lyrics by Al Hoffman-Dick Manning: Afro-Cuban flavored percussion heats up this 1954 Neopolitan song, in which a woman pleads with her lover to speak the truth.


Buona Sera (Kiss Me Goodnight): Written by two Americans, Carl Sigman and Peter DeRose, this song was introduced by Louis Prima in 1956. Vanessa and Paul sing it with the Prima jump-blues rhythm intact.

Tu Vuò Fà L'Americano (You Try to Act Like An American) – Renato Carosone – Nicola Salerno: This 1956 chestnut depicts an Italian who tries to impress with his slick, Americanized ways; and the woman he can’t fool. As she goes from mock-praise to ridicule, the music shifts from 6/8 blues feel to samba.


Se Tu M’ami (If You Love Me) – Giovanni Pergolesi/English lyrics by Vanessa Racci: A sinister, barebones intro sets the mood for this 19th-century ballad, the tale of a vixen who enjoys stealing hearts and crumbling them,” Vanessa explains. “I wanted it to sound evil and bewitching.”


C’é La Luna Mezz’o Mare (There’s a Moon in the Middle of the Sea) – Paolo Citorello/English lyrics by Vanessa Racci: Every Italian knows this 19th-century Neopolitan tune about a daughter on a manhunt. “C’é La Luna” is normally a tarantella; but Vanessa’s version, with a modernized English lyric, dresses it up to be an upbeat Samba.


Italian Love Medley: ‘O Marenariello (Seaman) – Salvatore Gambardella – Gennaro Ottaviano/English lyrics by Johnny Farrow – Marty Symes | Anema E Core (Soul and Heart) – Salve D’Esposito – Tito Manlio/English lyrics by Manny Curtis – Harry Akst: Aided by the Chicago-based pop-jazz baritone Paul Marinaro and strings, Vanessa effortlessly combines two Neopolitan standards; “‘O Marenariello” (1893), famous as “I Have but One Heart,” and Tenor Tito Schipa’s, “Anema E Core”.


‘Na Voce, ‘Na Chitarra E ‘O Poco ‘E Luna: This dramatically arranged Neopolitan ballad tells of a couple torn apart. “I wanted people to feel the pain in this woman’s heart, that she may never see her love again, so she’s holding on to the moment,” says Vanessa.


Tik-A-Tee, Tik-A-Tay – Fabian Andre – Andrés Feola: This 1962 Dean Martin favorite is a man’s tale of courtship, but Vanessa felt entitled to sing it too. The arrangement starts in a mellow cocktail lounge and winds up in Birdland on a swinging night.


Producer's Note

At a time when it seems that everyone has made a recording of material from the Great American Songbook and for the most part, recorded the same songs in the same way, Vanessa Racci has something new and fresh for our ears.

Italiana Fresca is a collection of classic Italian songs, many of which are as familiar to listeners as: "It Had To Be You," "As Time Goes By," and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love."  But these renditions are servied to us in a different way and in a different setting.  The recordings represent a new approach to this material and the treatments offer a unique blend of American Jazz, Mediterranean music, as well as Cuban and Brazilian rhythms that remain musically connected to the essence of Italy.

During the process of recording this material, there was no fighting in the kitchen and there were very few disagreements about recipes and ingredients.

And, it is worth noting that many of the ideas that flavor this project belong to Vanessa.  They emerge from her natural sense of rhythm and flow, and her wonderful ability to communicate both musical and poetic language.