Jazz Vocalist Barbara Rosene




by Robert L. Daniels

If you’re fortunate enough to be on hand when a time capsule from the roaring twenties is opened, or perhaps one from the flirty thirties, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to find yourself in the presence of Barbara Rosene. On a recent windy night at Manhattan’s Iridium the spirited young doyenne took her listeners back to the dry days of prohibition and the dark days of the great depression. However, there was never a sign of gloom in her sunny performance. The repertoire revealed a heady dose of hope and happiness, dreams and romance, and a generous serving of sunshine and moonbeams

A pert and pretty Rosene, on a night off from her nation wide tour with the Harry James orchestra, sang some of the old ones with an ingratiating presence and a sweet purity of purpose. With a saucy smile and an insinuating hand on her hip, she might well have been singing in a Warner Brothers speakeasy to a ringside table peopled with the likes of James Cagney, George Raft and Pat O’Brien. The only difference is that there is no longer any smoke in the air.

The songs defined the era. “Get Out and Get Under the Moon” was a collegiate anthem of the period, as was “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now,” a front porch Fats Waller tune that found Rosene pluckin’ a ukulele, whistlin’ a chorus, and singing Andy Razaf’s resigned vow with cheeky grandeur.

No composer defined heartbreak like Irving Berlin and with “Say It Isn’t So” Rosene carried the torch with teary grandeur. Accompanied by Jon-Erik Kellso’s growling trumpet (that recalled the sound of Bubber Miley) Rosene shared another broken heart with her plaintive query, “Am I Blue?”

Rosene’s homage to the past reveals snapshot cameos of some forgotten singers who introduced many of the evergreens in her program: Kate Smith, Annette Hanshaw, Connee Boswell and Lancashire’s Elsie Carlisle. Rosene sings with same sweet simplicity and directness as these timeless legends. When you hear such durable sentiments as “I’ll See You in My Dreams” and “Moonglow” you’ll find yourself comfortably nestled in another time and another place.

Atmospheric and flavorful accompaniment for the jazz baby is offered by Conal Fowkes on piano, Michael Hashim (reeds), Matt Szemela (fiddle), Kevin Dom (drums), Doug Largent (bass) and Jon Erik-Kellso.

REVIEW: All Music Guide, Scott Yanow

Barbara Rosene
All My Life

On her first two recordings, Deep Night and Ev’rything’s Made For Love, both made for the Stomp Off label, Barbara Rosene showed how comfortable and natural she is singing material from the 1920s. Rather than copying her predecessors, she sounds very much like herself.

All My Life moves Ms. Rosene up to the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, displaying her talents as a creative and warm swing singer. Her beautiful voice perfectly fits the material as does her subtle improvising. Backed by a fine jazz quintet that includes trumpeter Simon Wettenhall, Peter Martinez on clarinet and tenor, and pianist Tom Roberts, Barbara Rosene makes the vintage material sound fresh, lively and sometimes touching.

Among the highlights are such superior songs as “Till Then,” “Fools Rush In,” “Trust In Me” and “It Could Happen To You.” It is clear, while listening to these tunes, that Barbara Rosene really knows the meaning behind the lyrics and she sometimes brings out hidden beauty in even the most familiar songs.

Even on the sadder ballads, All My Life is a musical joy. It is easily recommended.


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