Cold Porter Tribute – In The Still of the Night
This collection of 11 Cole Porter standards is my first exposure to the recorded vocals of Calabria Foti, and to the work of arranger Michael Patterson. All of the selections are of course familiar, and yet through the artistry of the arranger, vocalist, and backing musicians, it is a distinct pleasure to revisit such chestnuts as “Miss Otis Regrets” and “Get Out of Town.”
Patterson is a Grammy and Emmy Award winning composer who has worked across multiple genres and instrumental ensembles, including orchestra and chamber music for concert halls, jazz arrangements and original compositions for big bands and solo artists, and scores for television and film.
Calabria Foti also brings solid musical credentials to the table. She is a recording artist who has worked with Seth Macfarlane, and is an active studio musician who has played violin on recordings including Barbra Streisand and Daft Punk. Each track on this record is enhanced by her authentic musicianship, and supported by a first class team. (Eddie Daniels, clarinet; Gene Bertocini, guitar, Michael Patterson, piano; Richard Locker, cello; Jared Schonig, drums; Bob McChesney, trombone; Ike Sturm, bass.)
This project is, at its heart, an example of the level of artistry two perfectly matched musical minds and sensibilities can create.
Foti’s voice is smooth and clear, and her intonation is perfect. At times she employs astonishingly beautiful long, silvery tones like a horn player. A natural, relaxed vibrato sneaks in at the ends of her phrases, and she has an actor’s ability to burnish and illuminate a lyric. Foti uses her exquisite instrument intimately and intelligently, making her a very satisfying and effective storyteller.
Standout tracks for me include “Miss Otis Regrets” with Richard Locker’s mournful cello and the sensitive piano of Michael Patterson. Here we have Foti’s story telling ability on full display, and Patterson’s arrangement gives her the right framework. The effectively simple ending is particularly poignant.
“Get Out of Town” has a slightly ominous feel. The arrangement employs perfectly timed instrumental lines that are not mere filler, but that advance the narrative . Eddie Daniels’ clarinet adds wry commentary.
“It’s Allright With Me” showcases Foti’s ability to swing. Notice how she phrases “It’s the wrong song…..” elongating the word “song” with her horn like clarity. It is an appropriate, unselfconscious choice. Patterson employs very tasty hits on the bridge, expertly contrasting with the straight ahead swing feel of the piece, and Eddie Daniels scampers through a delightful clarinet solo.
Foti, Patterson, and company connect on every one of the 11 songs, and this is a record I will be listening to a great deal. Like all exceptional artists, they have an innate ability to teach through example. This is how an effective singer communicates through phrasing. This is how you make an arrangement distinctive without sacrificing emotional impact. On every level this record offers superb artistic choices.
In an era when so many jazz oriented vocalists are mining non-traditional sources, it is refreshing to hear arrangements of standards that don’t overshadow the stories these classic songs tell. With these recordings, we are reminded why these songs have survived as standards, and once again Cole Porter “emerges” as one of our greatest songwriters.