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Review: By Scott Yanow / Los Angeles Jazz Scene



HEART TO HEART RECORDS www.tonymessina.com

A modern-day crooner, Tony Messina updates the great American Songbook and modernizes the middle-of-the-road classic pop tradition. His voice is warm, haunting and expressive, doing justice to the words that he interprets.

On Pure Imagination, his sixth recording, Tony is joined by the core trio of pianist Father John D'Amico (who takes many concise solos), bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Gregory McDonald. The trio is a versatile and sympathetic unit that works quite well with the singer and gives him swinging support.

Tony contributes eight originals in addition to reviving five offbeat standards, so Pure Imagination is full of both new material and rarities. Quite a few of the songs find Tony exploring the many sides of romance, particularly such numbers as the heartfelt love song "You Make It So Easy," "Island In The Sun," "Most Beautiful Girl," the good-natured "Just Your Friend," the yearning "Need Your Love," "I Don't Have A Clue" and the celebratory "I Have Love." Other highlights include "Pure Imagination" (which is given a lightly swinging and dreamy treatment), Horace Silver's "Song For My Father," which is turned into a tribute to Brazil and bossa-nova music, and "I'm A Jazzman." The latter gives Tony an opportunity to salute jazz and to scat a bit. Also featured are a rare vocal revival of "Feel Like Makin' Love," Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" and the calypsoish "Umba Zumba Happy Days."

The performances, which clock in between 2:50 and 4:06, are brief enough to gain airplay but are lengthy enough to tell its story. Throughout the set, Tony Messina (who is also responsible for the arrangements) is heard in top form, making Pure Imagination a joy
for fans of the singer.

Scott Yanow, author of ten books including The Jazz Singers, Trumpet Kings, Swing, Jazz On Record 1917-76 and Jazz On Film

Go To TonyMessina.com for more information on "Pure Imagination"

"Live In New York City At The Iridium Jazz Club"
Review: By Scott Yanow / Los Angeles Jazz Scene

Tony Messina loves the classic American songbook and is a crooner for the 21st century. But although he has performed a tribute to Dean Martin called The Dino Show and been praised by Frank Sinatra, he does not merely copy the past. Messina has his own sound, his musical personality is not dominated by any of his predecessors, and he even writes new material that fits in well with his shows.

During this live show from New York's Iridium which is his fifth CD, Tony Messina is sympathetically accompanied by pianist Barry Levitt, bassist Chip Jackson and drummer Victor Jones. He comes out swinging on Day In, Day Out, puts warmth into My Funny Valentine, caresses the melody of Blue Moon, and introduces three fine originals: Jazz'd, the light-hearted Mile High Club and Lifetimes.

Particularly impressive is how Messina is able to come up with fresh statements on such familiar numbers as On Broadway (which he swings and scats on with enthusiasm), Georgia On My Mind, How High The Moon (a tribute to Ella but without Messina emulating her phrases) and On Green Dolphin Street.The many concise solos of Barry Levitt and Chip Jackson are an asset throughout and the tight trio is expert at matching Tony Messina's phrasing.

Everything about this set works quite well, making Live In New York City Tony Messina's definitive recording so far. It is easily recommended to fans of crooners, vintage American songs, and swinging singing in general.
Available from www.tonymessina.com.


"Rated R: For Romantics Only" Review by
Lenny Bloom / Jazz Note

Phrasing is what tony Messina does best. Either you have it or you don't. His latest CD, Rated R: For Romantics Only (R & M Jazz Records), is loaded with meaningful lyrics ansd smooth rhythm licks. Messina knows them all, because for years he's played the club and concert scene all over the world with jazz groups and big bands.

The bulk of the CD features Messina interpreting standards by the likes of Rogers and Hart, the Beatles, Bacharch, and David Jimmy Webb, and Cole Porter. This is Messina's strong suit. His versions remind you of when and here you were when you first heard those songs. Music does that to you- it's a love letter to life.

Messina interprets lyrics like an instrumentalist. Standout standards include "The Look of Love," the uptempo "I didn't know what time it was" and Messina's Latin take on the Italian classic, "Volare."

He's also a proficient songwriter. Messina swings like nobody can on "Jazz'd" and "Your're Hip," and on the ballad, "Lifetimes," a sadness and longing for past love affairs comes across. In the humor department is the cool hip, fun/loving, "Mile High Club." Tony's songwriting and innovative take on pop and jazz standards is fresh, unique and undeniably infectious.

Messina's accompanied by a quality quartet that includes reedman Paul Chafin on sax and flute. He may be a Sinatra disciple, but Tony Messina's his own man on this well-paced CD.

"This Is What I Am" Review by
Matt "Rocky" Robinson

"What makes a song great?" asks Tony Messina in the liner notes to his new album, This Is What I Am. While it may be the great phrasing of Sinatra or the feeling of Fitzgerald and Horn, Messina posits that there are vital associations between music and lyrics, singer and music as well as a necessary element of magic which truly make the difference between tunes and songs. Therefore, Messina claims, one must have a further connection with the music in order to bring out the best it has to offer. Though some of the fifteen songs on the album have been done before, Messina's connections are as strong and moving as any...drawing from the past masters while adding a new warmth and excitement to these timeless pieces.

Most of the album consists of well-chosen and even better performed versions of the "great songs" of life. A tuneful adaptation of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "One Note Samba" (including a clever piano sampling of "The Summer Knows" mellows into the Gershwin's remorseful "Isn't It A Pity." A tempo-changing "Come Rain Or Come Shine" swings into a bouncy take on Van Morrison's romantic pleas "Moondance," "Fever," "Route 66," a deep and provocative narration of "Little Boy Lost" and a fiery jungle dance through Harold Arlen's "Old Black Magic" (complete with Sinatra-Dorsey-esque full swing code) take the listener through a gambit of emotions and styles. The only constant, it seems, is Messina's talent and care in each and every performance. Every note is considered yet free. Every song digs into the minds and hearts of Messina's audiences.

However, the true high points of this diverse and fulfilled album are Messina's own compositions. From the opening "Wonders Of The World"--a fresh cabaret-ish song about finding true, monumental love a bit later in life to the move-me-to-tears (yes, I admit it) title track of heartfelt lyrics wrapped in Messina's deep, souled voice and the more up (though no less meaningful) "It's A Loving World," Messina proves his talent on both sides of the staff.

I must admit that when I first wrote this review, I neglected to mention Tony's support team. Though the squeakless wheels don't get much attention, they deserve the most appreciation. Therefore the band definitely deserves a tip o' the hat of their own drummer Pete Giannosa and bassists Hal Cragin and Andrew Hall lay down a subtle but vital rhythm line accented by pianist Andy Hollander's well-tempoed clavier. Though the musician's act as base for Tony's leaping and earthy story-telling, these selections would not be nearly as good a cappella, despite Messina's ample and abundant vocal capabilities.

Messina's lyrics are reminiscent of other masters of "The Great American Songbook"--from Mel and Michael to Manilow and Mathis. Still, Messina adds a freshness and energy often lost and laid stale in these great old standards. Though the term "classic" may be bandied about a bit too freely these days--describing everything from colas to computers to contemporary music--there seem to be certain elements which make a given thing truly "classic." In trying to find this elusive aspect, Tony Messina has done his best to keep these old torches burning bright while adding new sparks to the embers. With a respectful nod to those who made these songs great, Messina seems able to find the songs' inner secrets and build on them. In so doing, Messina has added his own fuel to the eternal flame of the "great songs" of our proud musical canon.