Jazz vocalist Linda Ciofalo’s music is as pretty as the images of the singer that grace the liner notes of her CD Sun Set. She is not about bop, nor is she going to bowl you over with powerful vocals that are brash and in your face. Even on her smokier tunes she is not what you would describe as sultry. In some respects her approach to her music reminds me of Sara Gazarek. Both artists seem to subscribe to the belief that less is more, and instead of busy, high-powered instrumentals that vie for attention, the music is more stripped down, allowing the vocals to come through clearly. Ciofalo’s delivery is soothing, emotive and full of warmth.
The singer dips into a pool of songs representing some classic composers such as Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein ("Oh What A Beautiful Morning") and Lionel Hampton/Johnny Mercer ("Midnight Sun"), as well as two tunes from former Beatles, George Harrison’s "Here Comes The Sun," and the McCartney/Lennon song, "I’ll Follow The Sun."
Ciofalo gives a sparkling performance on "Here Comes The Sun," infusing the tune with a bright cheery demeanor that would make Harrison proud. Harrison never received the same credit for his songwriting abilities as Lennon and McCartney, or enjoyed the same post-Beatle era commercial success, but his artistic merit is without reproach. There is no denying his writing ability, as you listen to "Here Comes The Sun," or "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." He also helped found the legendary, but short-lived group (1988-90), The Traveling Wilburys, which consisted of Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty.
In her own elegant way, Ciofalo provides a smokey rendition of "Comes Love," (Sammy Stept / Lew Brown / Charles Tobias). She is dreamy on "Love Is Stronger Far Than We," as she is courted first by the smooth playing of pianist John di Martino, and then the genteel guitar of John Hart.
The singer also delivers a great performance of "I’ll Follow The Sun." Ciofalo’s vocals gently rise and fall, like a leaf floating in a slowly meandering stream. Once again she infuses a cheeriness into her music. I found her vocal style to be soothing and her phrasing impeccable.
It is questionable whether or not the tune "You Took Advantage of Me," is a good fit for Ciofalo’s sweet voice. In listening to her sing the song it seems that she fails to authenticate the emotional angst or accusatory tone of voice necessary for a song of this nature.
I also find her to be a little too mellow for Madonna’s "La Isla Bonita." She does however shine, as she gently coos the languid "Orange Blossoms In Summertime," a song that is based on Curtis Lundy’s music, and Ira and George Gershwin’s lyrics, with 21st century additions by Kurt Elling.
Other highlights include saxophonist Joel Frahm’s playing on "Midnight Sun," and Ciofalo’s ability to infuse the melancholy "The Last Day Of Summer," with a sense of sadness. Her vocal style is well suited for the opening track "Oh What A Beautiful Morning."
The arrangements for Sun Set were created by John di Martino and Linda Ciofalo. Ciofalo also produced her own record with di Martino acting as co-producer. Katherine Miller did a wonderful job of engineering this project at The Studio and Gene had an equally good hand when it came to the final mix.