On Cathy Rocco's latest release for Resonance Records, You're Gonna Hear From Me, this dynamic jazz vocalist packs more than a tune's worth of warmth and power into every song she sings. Whether the tune in question is a heavy-swinging rendition of a jazz standard, a belting R&B ballad by Aretha Franklin, or a wistful melody from traditional pop, Rocco asserts each lyric, each note with the confidence of an experienced and knowing performer.
You're Gonna Hear From Me features Rocco on 12 selections from various jazz, pop, and R&B composers, her rich vocals standing in bas relief against the disc's fresh arrangements and engaging orchestrations. Drawing on the considerable talents of pianists/arrangers Kuno Schmid and Tamir Hendelman, Rocco delivers some unexpected turns on familiar tunes--like Come Rain Or Come Shine" as a burner and a Latin-tinged There Will Never Be Another You," or, in a final twist, a bluesy, fully charged version of the title cut, You're Gonna Hear From Me."
While Rocco borrows from many musical influences in her performing, my inspirations were always from jazz," says the singer, who has studied both classical piano and voice and worked professionally in several genres of music. This CD is her first released as a solo jazz artist.
Rocco opens the album with Autumn Leaves," scatting a subtle theme that the band repeats throughout Hendelman's arrangement of Joseph Kosma's well-known melody. After this cool intro, however, Hendelman and guitarist Michael Higgins stoke the intensity of the track with extensive solo sections before Rocco re-enters with some added heat of her own. Rocco's impassioned interpretation here makes the tune less about the mournful passing of time, as it is normally interpreted, than about a remembered thrill that will, no doubt, be repeated.
In Autumn Leaves" we find a promise that the rest of the disc fulfills: Rocco brings her passionate delivery to each and every title, no matter what its style or tempo. On Come Rain Or Come Shine" Rocco matches bassist Dave Carpenter's hard-driving bass line with a solid iteration of the melody; when Kuno Schmid's horn section (courtesy of the Vienna Symphonic Library) enters, Rocco elaborates with an expansive scat. Then, on Daydreaming," one of Aretha Franklin's signature compositions, Rocco changes speed and style, offering the melismatic riffs and backup chorus one would expect of a pop R&B number but with the restrained accompaniment of a jazz tune. The net result is a compelling hybrid of these two styles, held together by Rocco's persuasive, emotional vocals.
Again demonstrating her talent for stylistic reversals, Rocco turns out a heart-rending rendition of For Once In My Life"--not as a show-stopper but as an introspective ballad that underscores the lyrics' message of determination and gratitude. Similarly, on I Never Went Away" and Tea For Two" Rocco reveals the softer side of passion--tempering her full sound with subdued tempos to impart the longing and pathos of unrequited love. For a singer as emotive as Rocco, these introspective re-interpretations of popular tunes are effortless: I go right into the mood as soon as I hit the first notes," Rocco admits.
Rocco includes two straight-ahead blues tunes on the CD: Tracy Chapman's Give Me One Reason" and Mel London's Little By Little." (This last was included almost as an afterthought. We needed another tune," Rocco explains. And I wanted to do it because it's a swing on a blues.") Wholly absent from these two numbers is any hint of sentimentality--in them Rocco displays the grit that only goes to prove her versatility as a singer and her knowledge as a musician.
For more evidence of Rocco's informed musicianship, listen no further than On A Clear Day," where in an inspired moment during the outro she first alludes to Johnny Nash's I Can See Clearly Now" and then to Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart's Johnny One Note." On this tune Rocco bends the melody and tosses off a scat line here and there in concert with the band's sophisticated harmonics--techniques that she also uses to dramatic effect on the moderate Latin tune, There Will Never Be Another You."
On the CD's eleventh-hour number, Hello Like Before," we hear just how big a voice Rocco has and, again, how easily she can slip into the story a song tells. I'm a huge fan of Bill Withers. His lyric on this song is so great--it's easy to feel, and musically, it all ties together," she offers.
Rocco closes the disc with the title cut, You're Gonna Hear From Me," a rousing blues up-tempo that gives Rocco's expert band plenty of solo time and concludes with a diva-strength finale. This final number not only serves as a fitting resolution to a stellar musical accomplishment but epitomizes Rocco's philosophy as a performer: The biggest thing is that the audience feels something," she says. I want them to go home with something special."
And You're Gonna Hear From Me is precisely that--something special.
Cathy Rocco started performing professionally in a family group at only 10 years of age. She later toured and recorded with her sister Connie as the one half of The Rocco Sisters, then signing with Sutra Records and breaking into national awareness with a cover feature in USA Today's Life section. In 1996 Cathy began her solo career as a jazz singer and since has recorded and/or performed with jazz masters George Mesterhazy, James Genus, Jim Ridl, Dan Sadownick, and Marlon Simon, among others. She recently opened for the Dizzy Gillespie All Stars, featuring James Moody, Pat Martino, and Joey DeFrancesco.
Release Date: August 12, 2008 Resonance Records: RCD 1005