FROM THE INSIDE OUT
(NA1023)

Bob Casanova, vocal
Andy Fite, guitar
Boel Dirke, piano
Rich Califano, Alex Gressel, Lynn Seaton, bass
Charley Krachy, tenor saxophone
Gary Levy, alto saxophone
Carol Tristano, Roger Mancuso, drums

 

Cadence, December 1995

He may seem an odd man out on a label that specializes in Lennie Tristano disciples but Bob Casanova proves he belongs. He's a true "jazz singer," meaning someone who uses their voice as an instrument instead of merely interpreting lyrics. He sounds good but this recording doesn't show him at best advantage. Most of it is a murkily recorded live set with the singer backed by Fite, Dirke, Califano and Krachy. What you can hear of Casanova sounds soulful and imaginative.

The solos are the good things here. Dirke has some lovely, extended piano lines and Fite gets a laid back, gliding solo on "Body and Soul." A pair of short voice and drum duets with Carol Tristano give a better taste of Casanova's range and creativity. He's best served by the last two tracks, "Jazzonia," an original setting of a Langston Hughes poem with just bass accompaniment, and "Why Aren't You Laughing?," an original blues. These really show his powers, a flair for dramatic scale-climbing improvisations on the former and a silken singing voice that can tell a story like Oscar Brown Jr. on the latter. Bob Casanova is a talent. Hopefully next time he'll do a studio album that really shows his prowess.

- Jerome Wilson


JUST FOR THE JOY OF IT
(NA1026)

Bob Casanova, vocal
Connie Crothers, piano

Cadence, February 1998

The performance is a pure musical expression. At first appearing stark with only voice and piano, the recording fills out with fullness and richness. Casanova has a unique voice for improvising on the themes. He has a certain innocence in his voice that is quite appealing. Casanova has chosen a wide array of standards onto which he adds his own personality. Initially, he alters the melody line ever so slightly and as he progresses he introduces totally unique phrases that fit neatly into the program. One selection, "When You're Smiling," seems out of place and does not seem to fit into the love song pattern of the album. This is the exception, though, for on most others his offbeat voice melds with the love songs for a moving presentation. He is particularly intriguing on "Wild is the Wind" with his very moving rendition. Crothers' piano accompaniment and soloing are a joy to behold. She doesn't allow herself to become constrained by the tunes' structures and is able to interject creative improvised lines into the song patterns. On "These Foolish Things" she is particularly poignant. By listening strictly to her playing, even when Casanova is singing, you can hear a continuation of her improvising approach. It is almost as though she were doing a solo piano album, yet the unstructured approach to the standards dovetails perfectly when Casanova reenters.

The two artists have created four short originals for the album. On "Lament" Casanova sings in a falsetto voice to Crothers' piano creations for a striking effect. They attempt it again on the three parts of "Spontaneous Suite" and achieve a whole new level of originality. It is a Jeanne Lee-type approach to singing, and it's an interesting diversion from the other tunes they perform.

Casanova and Crothers have created a moving album that weds an atypical vocal style with creative piano improvisations. It was a treat to hear.

- Frank Rubolino

 

Jazz Times, March 2000

With flawless pitch and a range that extends well into the contralto register, vocalist Bob Casanova approaches his art with the improvisatory confidence of an experienced jazz saxophonist. Interestingly for one whose conception is decidedly non-traditional, he chooses to direct his attention towards a clutch of widely exercised standards, but so original is his that each performance emerges as a unique expression. Hardly an accompanist in the conventional sense, pianist Crothers, a long-serving disciple of Lennie Tristano, offers intermeshing backgrounds and solos just as striking as Casanova's melodic variations. In keeping with Tristano's working method, their repertoire includes such warhorses as "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," "Lover Man," "When You're Smiling," "Out of Nowhere," and "I'll Remember April," but they also offer Dimitri Tiomkin's 1957 movie theme, "Wild is the Wind," and the jointly composed "Lament" and "Spontaneous Suite," a fascinating three-part reminder of Lennie's spur-of-the-moment experimentations with Lee Konitz.

-Jack Sohmer