Chicago Jazz Magazine - Dan Healy

On Taylor Street, Josie Falbo pays obvious tribute to her treasured Italian roots, evoking Chicago’s Little Italy with the album title. The musical content of the album is equally biographical, charting Falbo’s musical journey with a compilation of various recordings that she has made in many different styles. Falbo’s vocal career is, in point of fact, the very definition of eclectic. She has performed with pop, R&B, jazz, and gospel groups ranging from Earth, Wind, and Fire to Nancy Wilson and has performed on over 1,000 commercials, as well as several movie soundtracks.

Taylor Street is representative of this eclecticism, featuring pop, straight ahead jazz, smooth jazz, R&B, classical, and gospel styles. Each track features Falbo performing with top-notch musicians in each genre, whether it is jazz great Orbert Davis or the Lakeside Singers, who bridge classical and popular choral music. Falbo’s vocal virtuosity is at the very heart of this recording, with the singer demonstrating a striking tone, flawless intonation and a terrific range on every song.

Equally impressive is the manner in which Falbo adopts the nuances of each musical style. Her virtuosity is particularly apparent on such songs as Gershwin’s “Little Jazz Bird” and the Warren/Gordon classic, “At Last.” On “Little Jazz Bird,” Falbo not only sings simultaneously with flutist, Jon Negus, in his upper range (amazingly flexible for a vocalist) but also engages in wonderfully swinging scatting and trading with Negus as the tune continues. On “At Last,” Falbo perform the famous Etta James string orchestra introduction for the song vocally a capella with stunning perfection.

In the jazz realm, Falbo covers a diverse repertoire. Her rendition of “Thou Swell,” performed with an excellent jazz septet, is taken at an up-tempo clip with a crisp, swinging delivery by Falbo. Her renditions of the jazz ballads, “The Very Thought of You” and “The Music That Makes Me Dance,” are performed with supreme authority and lyricism. Perhaps as part of her Taylor Street theme, Falbo sings “Too Marvelous For Words,” giving possible tribute to Italian-American Frank Sinatra’s memorable version of this chestnut. Falbo also ably ventures into Brazilian jazz with a sharp jazz string arrangement of Jobim’s “Triste,” performed both in Portuguese and English. As if this were not enough, Falbo demonstrates expert aplomb on a few smooth jazz features, including “What You Do To Me” (arranged by jazz piano great Jim Trompeter) and “This Is Real,” on which she demonstrates supreme vocal soul.

Falbo dives head first into pop and R&B with her renditions of “Pretty Blue Eyes,” “Love Found Me (Just In Time),” “Fragile, Handle With Care” and “At Last.” “Pretty Blue Eyes” is particularly appealing, with Falbo effectively demonstrating virtuosic, soulful melodic embellishments. The disc ends appropriately with two tracks from Falbo’s work with the Lakeside Singers, a great choral ensemble that performs many arrangements in a wide variety of genres. Falbo first demonstrates serious classical skills with her solo feature on “Ave Maria” by Pietro Mascagni (not to be confused with Schubert’s “Ave Maria”). She puts the final touch on the recording with a rousing gospel version of the “Oh Happy Day” with the Lakeside Singers. Although CD shoppers who are seeking stylistic consistency may be thrown by Falbo’s recording that zigzags genres so effectively, music fans interested in hearing a virtuosic Chicago singer perform at her peak in a number of styles will find this recording very enticing.