It’s mentioned both in the liner notes and in Vitro’s acknowledgments that she lost a close friend at the time of the recording. The result is a tremendously life-affirming performance that moves through Vitro into her extraordinary band and out to the world with abandon.
Featuring Kenny Werner on piano, Dean Johnson on bass and Tim Horner on drums, each piece brims with confidence and professionalism. The arrangements are smart and interesting without being pat or too clever as to be distracting.
Vitro’s singing is blessedly mature, accurate, soulful, comforting and utterly honest. Her sound is one that jazz has always welcomed with open arms: wide, deep and colorful; beautiful without being pretty. Her solos include straight ahead, sure-footed swinging phrases, adventurous technical forays, humor and a faultless sense of balance within each tune.
Although Live at the Kennedy Center lies comfortably in the mainstream of jazz vocal recordings, Vitro and her band, Werner in particular, don’t let that keep them from taking on the blues, Brazil and Bill Evans and, of course, yodeling. The ballads, including "Like a Lover," "I Think it’s Going to Rain Today," "Commitment" and "Epilogue," are earnest and often possess philosophically reflective lyrics in addition to moments of gospel-like harmonies. The mid and up-tempo tunes, such as "Like Someone in Love," ‘Worried Over You," "Tryin’ Times," "Serrado, "Twelve Tone Tune" and "Black Coffee," are the highlight here. Take a listen to Vitro’s scat solo on the Betty Carter-owned "Please Do Something" for the moment of true delight and expressiveness that defines Live at the Kennedy Center.