Singer Roseanna Vitro didn't hand out her curriculum vitae during her opening set at the Kennedy Center's KC Jazz Club on Saturday night. It just seemed that way.
Chatty as she is talented, Vitro spoke of her jazz awakening in Texas, her career-shaping pilgrimage from Houston to New York, her influences and mentors (Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, Betty Carter and Lionel Hampton, among others), and her recent international tour as a Kennedy Center-U.S. State Department Jazz Ambassador.
She also mentioned her long working relationship with pianist Kenny Werner, who accompanied her in a trio setting, but that couldn't have surprised anyone who was listening. Over the years Werner has crafted a number of striking arrangements for Vitro, by turns warmly subdued and vibrantly animated. Saturday night his inspired handiwork, as arranger and accompanist, consistently flattered Vitro's voice and enhanced her interpretations.
Pop and jazz standards play a big role in Vitro's repertoire and handily eclipsed the lesser-known tunes she performed.
There were exceptions, though. "Please Do Something," a rhythmically fitful and wonderfully evocative tribute to Carter, was a delight from start to finish, complementing Vitro's winning performances of "Yardbird Suite," "Midnight Sun" and "Black Coffee." The singer also paid homage to victims of Hurricane Katrina with a soulful reading of Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today." Through it all, Vitro benefited from Werner's artful touch and the able support of bassist Dean Johnson and drummer Tim Horner.
-- Mike Joyce