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There may be no better place to read about Meredith’s music than by reading the liner notes. Here is the complete collection of all 17 albums. This is a valuable resource if you have purchased her music as a digital download.
LostInHisArms  			Lost In His Arms
Meredith… A Sound… A Feeling
Often times, I'm asked to describe in words how I feel about what I hear. Good. Great. Often, it's easier said than done.

With Meredith, in this her first album, the words come a bit easier, for she can turn you on with a phrase, grab you with a nuance that you didn't quite expect. In short, her usual is, quite frequently, the unusual.

The reason is, she makes each performance her own… just ask anyone who has seen her as she appears at various spots around the circuits… I mean the knowledgeable ones who frequent Satch's, the Plaza Bar in Boston's Copley Plaza Hotel, or the staid Jared Coffin House on Nantucket Island.

I've always felt, personally, that your parents really do influence what you will become… and, certainly in this instance, it's true, for Meredith has always been surrounded by good sounds, quality performances and all the other things that go into making this woman of words, and music.

She's one part vocalist, one part pianist, and certainly one part woman… a delightful composite that at one moment reminds you of a sultry Jeri Southern chanting "Baby, did you hear me, your sweetie's goin' to leave you on the next payday." to the exquisite sentimentality of an Irving Berlin "I Got Lost In His Arms.." Maybe your choice is an upbeat "Rip Van Winkle," a boppish tale of the man who slept for twenty long years, and told musically by the brilliant George Handy, who wrote the song for Ginnie Powell, when she was singing with the Boyd Raeburn band in the forties, and was subsequently taken on the the "Cow Cow Boogie" girl Ella Mae Morse.

The songs are, of course, the secret of the success. The good songs, some familiar, some, somewhat arcane, as you will soon discover when you dip inside the covers of this initial Meredith offering, for Meredith d'Ambrosio, to spell it out in total, are all here.

Sometimes you'll hear her in solo (yes, that's her on the keyboard), blending the almost totally ignored Jerome Kern World War I item "Land Where The Good Songs Go," and on the next track, dipping into another World War, this time in the forties, for "In Love In Vain," a lovely cameo that brought us all through a trying period in history.

Y'know, there's quite a bit of Kern in this album, which personally pleases me, for I feel Kern says it all, if you will. "Once In A Blue Moon" is another Kern gem you'll find in the tracks of this album. There are others. Take the title song, "I Got Lost In His Arms," an unabashed romantical kind of Irving Berlin song. While I'm the first to admit that Berlin is not my favorite composer, I can't argue with this particular choice - it's a beauty - and Meredith gives it her all.
Rodgers and Hart are represented with "It Never Entered My Mind," from their score of Higher and Higher. Don't forget the lamenting Larry Hart lyrics of "Spring Is Here," ("Spring is here, I hear"). Hart said it all. Meredith extends it.

Cole Porter's World War II musical Seven Lively Arts  gives us "Every Time We Say Goodbye" (and why this song has been so neglected is beyond my reach), while Hoagy Carmichael's "I Get Along Without You Very Well" exacts the same kind of mood.

Meredith d'Ambrosio added lyrics to Freddie Hubbard's jazz anthem "Up Jumped Spring." The Jule Styne, Betty Comden, Adolphe Green lovely "Never-Never Land" is given added meaning thanks to Meredith d'Ambrosio's thoughtful, wistful interpretation of the lyrics.

I could rave on and on, but the best bet for those of you who have taken the time to pick up the album, read the liner notes, and ponder, would be to take the album out of the jacket and let it spin on your individual turntable.

Before we close, let's give credit where credit is due. On two of the tracks ("Never-Never Land" and "Alone Together"), Meredith gives up her piano chair to Ray Santisi, one of the area's, and the nation's, top pianists. Ray's credits, ranging from a more than fifteen year stint with the Herb Pomeroy Orchestra, and many assignments for shows and his own personal appearances with his own groups, and bassist Chris Rathbun. On two of the other tracks on the album, she's accompanied by guitarist Norman Coles ("Blame It On My Youth" and "Rip Van Winkle"). Other than that, it's Meredith all the way.

Oh, yes… a special mention for Hoagy Carmichael's provocative "Baltimore Oriole," that sweet, sad bird never sounded so lonely.

That, in brief, is Meredith, this composite of musical wine, woman, and song. This is just the beginning of a new beginning. With over 2,000 songs tucked up in the corners of her mind, it's no wonder that this wonder displays her singing and playing wares so effectively.

I couldn't let this album go by without a personal tip of the cap to the late Dr. Frank Nichols, who, after all, was responsible for my meeting Meredith d'Ambrosio in the first place . . . and that was a fortunate experience.

Now, dear friends of good music, sit back, pour yourself your favorite libation, and listen, as I have done for many times, to the sound, the music, and the musical awareness of this young lady who broadens her scope to many times beyond her time-on-earth span. Enjoy… Meredith.

I have… I do!

Ken Elliot,
Boston, 1980
AnotherTime 			Another Time
Something insistently strong about this record resists complete demysitification. The more you listen to it, the more you can become drawn into its vortex of spirit, and I have listened to it 60 to 70 times and it simply stays crisply fresh and savary. It just grows on you! Others have also happily reported this subtle intoxication, but without clear reasoning. It just happens!

In a related context, Meredith d'Ambrosio's music has tugged new ears. Namely, whenever I have selected one of her songs from her album Lost In His Arms and played it on KJAZ radio during the past six months, listeners have called to express enthusiasm or to request more. Inquiries about who she is, where she can be seen and heard and what else has she recorded have been other effects.

Boston - her birthplace, has also been her professional center for twenty odd years, singing mainly in her home state, e.g., Copley Plaza in "Bean Town" is one of her mainstays. However, she is certain to be in a variety of places in the near future since the word about her is spreading with acceleration.

Borne by parents in the entertainment professions, Meredith was given a piano and started singing at age six. Records by Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday were among a collection of jazz records lying around the house.

Very early on, a deepening interest and knowledge in jazz was intensified by access to two of her earliest influential jazz d.j.s Symphony Sid and Father Norman J. O'Conner, the "jazz priest" of Boston University. "As I heard songs I liked, I jotted them down." Today Her song repertory exceeds 2000.

Meredith says she is more of a singer than a pianist and never had formal voice lessons. On piano. she was initially turned on by Horace Silver's work. Art Tatum and Bill Evans were sources of inspiration, too. Along the way, she learned by discovering the chords they played.

With her transparent integrity and inpeccable taste in music, it is no surprise to find her songs unencumbered by commercial compromise. Her priority lies in telling the story in singing a song, and to tell a story well you must be a convincing thespian. Meredith is elegantly able to project a song's meaning by getting "inside" of it - translating the words on a page into one of illumination.

Every word and line is enlivened with warm expresive familiarity and shading. The words just pop, ooze, swoop or flow out, appropriate to interpretive finess and substance. "Lazy Afternoon" and "It's So Peaceful In The Country" are my favorite examples of this quality. Or dig how she sings the word "loon" in "Skylark" - it sounds amazingly like the voice of a real loon, ornithologically speaking.

Meredith's voice is indeed an unusual interesting voice imbedded in jazz tradition, recalling nuances of Anita O'Day and Irene Kral, among others. At the mention of the late Ms. Kral, who was likewise a magnigicent interpreter, Meredith said "Oh, yes, exactly! She's wonderful! We have very low voices." The two have the same range. The shadow of Kral, however, is kept at a respectful distance even though Meredith nods in her style along the way.

The appealing program of songs on the album reflects her meticulous choice-making. Beginning with the rcorded debut of the captivating title selection "All Of Us In It Together," there are seven songs identified with Alec Wilder either by lyrics, music or both. "It's all spiritually strange because magically, I was allowed to introduce some of his things through people I met who had everything to do with Alec. For the last year and a half, I've felt surrounded by Alec and I was urged to send him my first album as people were sure he would enjoy its affinity to his music. I was very unhappy that he died as I had wanted to meet him. Also, I wanted to say something about him in singing his songs, although not recording just his songs alone. I also love Dave Frishberg, Hoagy and the rest." Her own tune "The Piano Player" is an attractive gem!

"Alec's lyrics to Thad Jones's beautiful "A Child Is Born" put me into another world when it says 'one work of art.' I knew this man had to be very, very sensitive!"

Wilder died in December, 1980. Through his life he placed premium value on three major things: music, young children and nature. The songs herein are right in line with these values. The listener will be able to pick these out promptly as Wilder's bonds with the pristine character of the natural environment and with childhood culture are singularly warm and extra-perceptive.

The album teems with melodic life. It is blithesome of melody and infectious of rhythm. Especially enjoyable is the unforced, unhurried beauty of Meredith's slow things and ease with which she can juxtapose varying moods. Marvelous!

Meredith d'Ambrosio says "Lyrics are really important, but if the tune isn't right, there's no magic in it." In this album we have both ingredients . . . plus Meredith's magic . . . the perfect blend.

Herb Wong
Jazz Times and
KJAZ Radio San Francisco
LittleJazzBird 			Little Jazz Bird
First, a pinch of history: Meredith d'Ambrosio's first album, Lost In His Arms , came my way in 1980 and became a pro tem member of a weighty shelf of review records. When it finally reached my turntable, Meredith's blithesome freshness and obvious sincerity, the way she insinuates the privacy of a story, lifted the lyrics off the page into enlightenment. I was caught completely off guard. And I was knocked out that such a singer was on the fringe of the scene.

So moved was I by her majestic choice of songs, her ubiquitous warmth and way each word and note was expressed with finesse and penetration, I called her at home in Newton, Massachusetts. My opening shot over the phone was "Is this Meredith d'Ambrosio? Who are you, anyway? And how did you get your brand of magic?" Among other things she told me about her new tape Another Time (on Shiah Records), on which she sings and accompanies herself on piano. The music was enchanting, and I wound up writing the liner notes for the album.

Flashing on how marvelous it could be to have a special rhythm section with Phil Woods on clarinet and alto, and perhaps even a string quartet, I was ultimately able to carry out the whole of this fantasy when Palo Alto Recaords became viable.

Manny Albam first heard Meredith perform in New York as part of a 1981 tribute to Alec Wilder. Manny's enthusiasm and gifts are expresses as arranger-conductor on this album. Ironically, Manny also had the notion of assembling a string quartet, lending a tasteful opulence to the project. It's so nice to hear the impeccable work of Manny Albam - a hero of mine since his early contributions to the Kenton and Herman bandbooks some 30 years ago.

Is Phil Woods a swinging jazz bird or isn't he! Likewise, any performance including Hank Jones automatically qualifies for extra points. Of course, Steve Gilmore and Bill Goodwin are in their eighth year of association with Phil's quartet - more points. And Gene Orloff's strings have been heard on countless jazz dates.

Wrap all this up with Meredith and the music irresistable. Ornithologically speaking, Meredith d'Ambrosio is a little jazz bird that every "jazz birder" will want to include as a rare species - and a "must" on his/her "life list."

Herb Wong

It was a nasty day in December. Snowing, too. The mood was bleak indoors and out. I don't think a visit from Audrey Hepburn would have cured my blues.. "Just what I need," I said glumly to the postman - "another record." The singer's name was Meredith d'Ambrosio, and the voice was warm and cozy, like angora. By the time she was halfway through the second cut, I was convinced it was spring.

A couple of albums later, I am a loyal and devoted Meredith fan. I have journeyed forth to the clubs where she has played, I have taped her first two albums for the growing legion of fans who now claim equal responsibility in discovering her,  and I have spread the word: a major new talent has burst upon the tired old music scene, doing mouth-to-mouth to receive good songs for discerning listeners. Now, in her third and most profoundly musical offering to date, she has stepped forward into the center spot, leaving the driving to others (her own subtle magic at the keyboard can still be heard to excellent advantage on two of the tunes) and the result is a new facet to her already distinctive career. With lush arrangements by Manny Albam for her voice to swing in, she unwraps a brand new package of tunes so freshly minted and neatly pressed she must have been keeping them in a cedar-lined drawer with her old Lily Daché hats.

One of the nicest things about Meredith is her clear-headed, no-nonsense attitude toward songs. If they don't fit, she doesn't try them on. She knows instinctively what works for her low, lazy and perfectly pitched voice and she has such impeccable taste in songs that the listener is always assured of some new and enriching discoveries when she makes her final selection. This collection is no exception. The ripe evergreen "There's A Lull In My Life," by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel, takes on new dimensions. Loonis McGlohon's sublime "Songbird" is a personal and very nostalgic tribute to his late, great friend, Teddi King. Teddi was staying at Loonis's house in South Carolin the week before she died. Overcome with grief, but uplifted by happy memories of the beautiful music she had made in her lifetime as a singer, he wrote "Songbird" in twenty minutes. You could call this song truly inspired.

"Our Love Rolls On" by Dave Frishberg, starts out like "Turkey In The Straw" but turns very romantic, with Meredith playing all the right chords to give her voice full throttle in the melodic lines. Dave always says his songs are about "betrayal, humiliation and food" but this tender ballad proves he's more sensitive and discerning than he'd like us to believe. The only other vocal I've ever heard on "Spring In Manhattan" is Blossom Dearie's. Listen to Meredith and you'll understand what I mean about why she reminds me of spring. Her voice is synonymous with the first lilacs.

"How Is Your Wife" and "When The End Comes" are both by a new songwriting discovery, Deborah Henson-Conant, a harpist and poet who knows how to blend rhapsodic harmonies with dark purple lyrical twists that force you to listen twice before full comprehension sets in. On the former, Meredith is once again at the piano, fertilizing the ironic lyrics with her own brand of musical paprika.

There are many other highlights here which you will undoubtedly delight in finding for yourself, but the bright, soulful alto sax and clarinet solos by Phil Woods are a source of mystery and joy throughout. Hank Jones does some wizardry of his own in the piano department, and the rhythm accompaniment by Steve Gilmore on bass and Bill Goodwin on drums forms the perfect alchemy to bring the sorcery off smoothly, without a hair out of place or a note out of tune. The gentle soupçon of strings that floats in and out from time to time adds a bracing breeze most singers would give up a date at Carnegie Hall to work with. All told, a unique and flavorful experience.

In the overcrowded market of here-today, gone-tomorrow belters and Top 40 noisemakers, the genuine artists are sadly few. Meredith d'Ambrosio is one of that rare and cherished handful. Dear Meredith, in this world of ordinary everything, I'm glad there is you.

Rex Reed
mistletoemagic144 			Mistletoe Magic
The coupling of jazz music and holiday music reflects a lively, exciting characteristic of jazz: the musical literature comes from virtually any origin, the idiom, vintage or context notwithstanding. Music assoviated withe the winter holidays has been a rich perennial source of material for jazz improvisations since the 1920s, and the recorded performances have continued to appear, as single tracks on albums or entire albums devoted to the Christmas/New Year's theme.

I became intrigued with this blend of something familiar and something so fresh during my childhood. So it was natural that when I began broadcasting on KJAZ radio in San Francisco in 1959, I promptly inaugurated an annual special five-or-six hour holiday jazz program - all Yuletide jazz originals or jazz interpretations, a mix of traditional and contemporary, secular and sectarian. And they come from a multitude of sources: performances by solo artists, vocalists, small or big bands, drawn from 10 and 1/2 inch lps and 78rpm discs.

I planned this collection of holiday bebop as Pala Alto Records' contribution to that repertory, from the duo of vocalist Meredith d'Ambrosio and the tasty piano of Hank Jones to the full big band sounds of Full Faith and Credit. The album is spiced with a great variety of forms, styles and sounds, and I hope you will find these musical gifts joyful and magical. They'll certainly find their way onto my own broadcasting turntables! Happy Swinging Holidays!!

Herb Wong
ItsYourDance 			It's Your Dance
Miles Davis's Birth Of The Cool  album featured a piece called "Israel." John Carisi wrote the tune - a beautiful and unusual melody - very hip. Three decades later, after I had practically worn out the Miles cut of "Israel," Ray Passman mentioned that he had written lyrics for it under the title "It's Your Dance." As soon as I saw them I knew I had to record it. Harold and Kevin obviously dig this one too, judging from their superb playing on it. I was delighted to see John Carisi at the session and am grateful for his kind permission to record it.

"The Underdog" is another example of a song that changed its name when it acquired lyrics. Al Cohn originally wrote and recorded it as "Ah, Moore," later to be reborn as "The Underdog" under Dave Frishberg's witty hand. Such transformations are common in music, but few result in songs as perfectly integrated as "The Underdog." Listen to Irene Kral singing this song with Alan Broadbent on piano from the album The Gentle Rain  on Choice Records. It's magic!

"It Isn't So Good It Couldn't Get Better" gives Harold and Kevin a chance to swing behind Fran Landesman's breezy lyrics. Irene Kral also sang it on her Where Is Love album, and I sing the two songs in memory of her.

"Off Again, On Again" probably would have escaped my notice if it weren't for Pat Smythe, the fine English pianist [and a mentor of Bill Evans]. The song is a very obscure one by E.Y. Harburg and Vernon Duke, and is another contender in the Love and Disillusionment category. The Wizard of Oz  made Yip Harburg famous; "Off Again, On Again" reveals his darker side. Some fun indeed . . .

My dear friend Loonis McGlohon sent me "No One Remembers But Me" a couple of years ago. He and Alec Wilder co-wrote a number of songs before Alec's death, but this one belongs to Loonis alone. It's a very sad song coming from the viewpoint of an older woman who seems isolated from all but her memories - at least for the moment.

As time is the agent of loneliness in "No One Remembers But Me," it may lead to neurosis in "Miss Harper Goes Bizarre." Miss H. is the young-fashion-model-as-commodity who as she matures is doomed to suffer a decline in face-value and to be supplanted by a newer nymph crop (sorry). Ray Passman told me that he was thinking of Brooke Shields at the time he wrote this clever warning, but she seems  to have successfully diversified her portfolio of late. The vicious boom and bust (or maybe bust and boom) cycle persists, however. As a gone-bizarre, Gloria Swanson says in Sunset Boulevard, "We didn't need voices - we had faces." The music to "Miss Harper Goes Bizarre" is mine, and it's a pleasure to hear Kevin and Harold playing it.

Dave Brubeck's "Strange Meadowlark" first appeared on his Time Out  LP. I thought it was so beautiful, and the title so suggestive, that I was inspired to write lyrics for it, and did so with the help of Sharyn Abramhoff. Dave's wife Iola must have felt the same way, because (as I later learned) she beat me to the publisher with her own set of words - recorded by Carmen McRae, no less. Anyway, the lyrics for this date are mine and Sharyn's, thanks to Iola Brubeck's gracious permission.

A word about the cover: When I was eighteen some eggshells fell into my sink. They rang like little pieces of glass as they struck the porcelain surface. The resulting chord (a complex one to say the least!) gave me an idea. Eggshells break into an enormous variety of sizes and shapes (and notes, they are hard, and they are easily colored. I had been looking for a more flexible mosaic medium and this was it. Forty-five eggshell mosaics later I still like that sound . . .

As Gary Snyder wrote, "It all gathers, humming in the egg." And once you've cracked the shell . . .  It's Your Dance !

Meredith d'Ambrosio
TheCove 			The Cove
 "I'm an artist before I'm a musician," Meredith d'Ambrosio revealed in an interview with this writer three years ago. Talking with me about the album at hand, she qualified that admission. "It's equal. I can't distinguish now between the two, although painting was always my first love."

The Boston-born (1941) d'Ambrosio was discovered to have an ear for music when she was six years old, and she had already by then begun to display a talent with the brush. She soon began instruction at a school of piano forté and later attended the Boston Museum School. By way of filling in, regarding that training in music, let it be noted here that Meredith's mother Sherry Linden, who died in 1968, was a singer-pianist who was quite well-known for her appearances in the Darbury Room and other Boston cabarets.

"She used to make people cry," Meredith recalls of her mother's style of performance. "How can I describe her? She was the last of the red hot mammas." When she was six Meredith made a home recording, harmonizing with her mother. "I was only six, but I had a voice," she assured me.

In clarification of the dual talents of Meredith d'Ambrosio, let us hasten to point out that she is not alone in this regard among jazz artists. A by no means comprehensive roster of some who have similarily expressed themselves in the graphic or plastic arts would include the following: in painting, there is Sonny Rollins, Les McCann, Marian McPartland, Pee Wee Russell, Bob Haggart, Mel Powell, Tony Bennett, John Heard, and George Wettling. Miles Davis has had shows of his sketches, the singer Dee Bell has been active in both hand-modeled and monumental welded sculpture, and George Gershwin painted portraits. The multi-woodwind player Vinny Golia found inspiration in jazz performance for his wall-size paintings and then acquired the first of his now dozen or so horns and became a musician. The painter Larry Rivers, who had played saxophone in the bands of Herbie Fields and others, turned to painting full  time in the 1950s (and still plays part time, along with several other artists, in The 13th Street Band). Vocalist and songwriter Gene Lees has worked as a commercial artist. There are, of course, others, for the arts go hand-in-hand.

"I've always painted. I'm still painting," Meredith tells me. Her watercolors, oils and eggshell mosaics (a medium she is credited with originating some thirty years ago) have been shown throughout the U.S. and abroad in cities too numerous to name here. "I paint in a very traditional style, all kinds of scenes - water, pastoral, people, still life, anything that has to do with representational work."

Asked to comment on "The Cove," the splendid watercolor that graces the front cover of this album, Meredith points out, "It's basically in an impressionistic style even though at first glance it might look realistic. It's a combination of realism and impressionism. I don't paint photographically. If you blow my paintings up, you'll be able to see that they're not labor-intensive. I don't sit there and do every leaf. I use my brush to make one stroke for the whole leaf - it's just a quick statement that I make with the brush."

We have directed some attention to Meredith as a painter for a reason. We believe that both her pictorial art and her music are more fully understood if experienced together. To that end, may we suggest that, for the album's opening selection, you direct your eyes to "The Cove" while Meredith's voice introduces "The Cove" to your ears.

But wait - don't touch that dial, yet. Allow Meredith first to expatiate upon her painting. "The Cove is a nighttime view of a daytime scene of mine titled 'Arbor Of Roses' that is now on the cover of the 1988 Oregon Artists Calendar." Of the song - and the painting - she explains, "The 'cove' is the hollow of a man's shoulder where a woman can rest her head and snuggle up in. It's like a little secret place. You want to walk into that garden, you're curious about it. It's a mysterious spot."

Before we proceed with some comments (Meredith's and my own) on the selections, we'd like to insert here a brief account of Meredith's professional history. Until 1982 Meredith remained in and almost exclusively performed in the Boston area, and until 1978 hers was a solo act as a general rule, and she almost always accompanied herself. She has maintained self-accompaniment for club and concert hall appearances, for the most part, but this past decade has seen her in frequent collaboration in the studio with other jazz artists and she has often worked with bassists on the gig. Her associations have included saxophonists Phil Woods  and Lee Konitz, pianists Hank Jones, Harold Danko, and Fred Hersch, guitarist Kevin Eubanks, bassists Michael Moore, Steve Gilmore, Jean-François Jenny-Clark, Keter Betts, Frank Tate, Major Holley, and Michael Formanek, and drummers Bill Goodwin and Keith Copeland.

Meredith resided in Eugene, Oregon for several years earlier this decade but now spends her winters in Florida and summers on Cape Cod. She finds herself on tour in Europe once or twice a year and filling in the remainder of the time with club and concert dates in New York, the Boston area, Cape Cod, and Florida. She is scheduled for a tour of the West Coast later this year and she is talking about a visit to Japan, where she has a large following.

That's a pretty busy schedule for someone who, only a few years ago, referred to her painting as "one of the ways I'm making money to support my music." To apply an old cliché, it seems like Meredith d'Ambrosio is an idea whose time has finally come. A damn good idea, we might add . . .

. . . It seems that on every occasion upon which I have the pleasure of writing about this artist, I find myself using the word 'unique' to descrive ber art. And that's because, quite clearly, she is just that. As a test of that claim, listen attentively to this album, and then I challenge you to cite another singer (much less, singer-pianist) out there today who is doing anything even remotely resembling what Meredith d'Ambrosio does.

W. Royal Stokes,
Jazz Times
SouthToAWarmerPlace 			South To A Warmer Place
Music should be a revelatory experience, like a big intellectual hug. The music of the fifties changed people's lives. So, for that matter did the best rock and roll of the sixties. Music, these days, seems to be a swollen commercial commodity where appearances are everything.

Birth Of The Cool  was important and entertaining, as was In A Silent Way, Crosby Stills & Nash's Dejavu  and Jimi Hendrix Are You Experienced? The formula that makes these records vital is an abandonment to art, and a stiff commitment to entertainment. It's ideas that are real and original. The performer has to love and understand the music they play.

Jazz used to be a form to which that attitude clung. It had a natural connection with the unconventional. Like everything else, changing tastes have largely eroded that integrity.

All of which brings us to Meredith d'Ambrosio. She is, well, a dry martini on a hot day. You can cling to the standards of Ella, Lena and Peggy Lee; but for sheer strength of purpose, talent and growth from record to record (no two sound alike) she is supreme. She's got some remarkable songs nobody else would have thought to dig up, a piano she plays herself, and originals like nobody's ever written. She manages, without cracking open a single vibrato, to make any married man within hearing range start giving his wife a second look. She simply is the best; and what you're holding is her best effort yet.

She got married a short eight months ago to the superb pianist on this album, Eddie Higgins; and being a happy newlywed, she's doing some particularly upbeat jazz.

Having been weaned on Symphony Sid and a pianist-singer mother she describes as "the last of the red hot mamas," she picks out material for love.

Opening with "The Touch Of Your Lips" a 1936 tune written by Ray Noble, she comes out swinging. So plaintive and lucid is her devotion to the meaning of the lyrics that you can hear Eddie blush. From there it's pure sophistication and evergy as she soars through the likes of Cole Porter's seldom recorded "Dream Dancing," Noel Coward's "Someday I'll Find You," Clare Fischer's amazing Latin-styled "Morning" (featuring drummer Danny Burger on an unnamed gizmo of his own design, which changes the pitch of the drums by way of some centrally inserted plastic tubes that he blows into (!), and, just to prove her prowess on something more familiar, "My Shining Hour."

Meredith's real pride and joy, the reason she did this album in the first place, is Oscar Peterson's "Nightingale," it's eloquent lyric by noted writer Gene Lees. It's a duo between her and Eddie, pastoral, sensual and disarming.

If that still doesn't convince you, she's written some swell lyrics to Al Cohn's bebop classic, "'T'aint No Use," plus gorgeously updated Bob Haggard's 1939 "You're My Inspiration," put an English lyric to the moving Brazillian "Tristeza De Amar." She has an ex-pro-baseball player and legendary New England musician, the ubiquitous Lou Colombo adding hes smoky trumpet to four cuts, and, lest we forget, Don Coffman serving up some of the most intelligent, economical bass ever heard on this planet.

She outdoes herself on "You Are The Life Of Me," originally a tone poem of love called "Aquarelle" written for Meredith by Higgins with equally appreciative lyrics by the inimitable Loonis McGlohon.

Topping the whole thing off is the title cut, her vocal a cool and inspirational mountain spring; and absolute paean to keeping your head up in tough times.

In 1963, John Coltrane became so enamored of her voice that he tried to get her to join his group for a Japanese tour. Nothing, however, could have kept her from the demands of her 17 month old daughter. Since then, she's only gotten better. Recently on a jazz interview program with Marian McPartland, Fred Hersch (the enormously talented pianist who played on Meredith's last album, The Cove, stated words to the effect that while most singers aren't musicians, Meredith is a musician who just happens to sing. It's clear to us that she belives what she's singing about. She's free of attitude, posing a d pandering. OnSouth To A Warmer Place, she bleeds the competition dry.

Richard Santoro
Cineman Syndicate
LoveIsNot 			Love Is Not A Game
In her music and her painting, the art of Meredith d'Ambrosio is founded equally on sentiment and craftsmanship. This album's cover self-portrait is one example of that interdependent duality. Its title song is another.

"Love Is Not A Game" was written when Meredith was angered and saddened over the proposition that lives and feelings are damaged, perhaps beyond repair, when momentary emotions are enlarged by thoughtless speech. It is about irresponsibility. It says that, dishonestly promised, the simple message "I Love You," has the power to destroy the receiver and the sender. The song's beautiful, technically demanding melody is made up of the top notes of its unusual chord sequence. They descend and rise in a sigh that echoes and reinforces the thought in the lyric. Meredith's piano accompaniment and solo are essential to the realization of the conception of the song.

In 19th Century German art song, the result of this marriage of thought, music and performance was called lieder. Its supreme master was Franz Schubert, whose pieces were set to poetry of giants like Heine and Müller and performed by such leading opera singers as Anna Milder-Hauptmann and Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient. In the late 20th Century, it is called classic American popular song. In composer/performers like Bob Dorough, Dave Frishberg, Blossom Dearie and, especially, Meredith d'Ambrosio, the roles of Schubert, Heine and Milder-Hauptmann are combined.

At their best, they continue the work of Rodgers and Hart, Van Heusen, Mercer, Porter, Berlin, Whiting, Gershwin and Kern, whose craft can be traced to Schubert and the European art song tradition but was inflected with the syncopations and harmonic departures of jazz. Meredith longs for the days when the songs of these composers, performed by great artists, set standards; the days when it was not oxymoronic to speak of quality popular music is cold. She wants the warmth of that era to come back. In her own songs and her performances of others, Meredith is doing her best to restore that warmth.

"Love Is Not A Game" is only one example of her continued growth as a composer and lyricist. There are seven other instances in this, her sixth Sunnyside album, in which she has provided words or music, or both.

Although she accompanies herself only on the title song, the piano assignment is kept in the family.  Meredith and Eddie Higgins have been married a couple of years now, and the happiness they have found in each other can be clearly heard. Like his wife a native of Boston, Higgins spent most of his career in Chicago, where he worked with or was heard by most of the great jazz musicians and developed a reputation among insiders as one of the finest pianists in the world. The rhythm section is rounded out by the bass and drums of Rufus Reid and Keith Copeland, musicians who are in constant demand.

The repertoire has some surprises, beginning with the first song. "Daybreak" is by Ferde Grofé, who also composed the "Grand Canyon Suite," a fact announced by Mr. Higgins in his introduction. The surprise, to Meredith, was that Grofé had written a song independent of his famous long-form works like the suite and "Metropolis." Reharmonized by Meredith and Eddie, a distinct improvement over the plain vanilla chords of the sheet music, the piece has a lovely wistful quality. If you are hearing Meredith for the first time, this is a marvelous  introduction to her perfectly centered intonation, relaxed phrasing and timing. You may also notice the musicianship involved in her not choices, as in the beginning of her final chorus, when she underlines the bright optimism of the lyric by reaching up a third to the top of the scale. And again at the very end, where she concludes on a flatted fifth without making it a cliché. In his solo, Higgins has a little message for his wife, quoting Lester Young's famous final bars from "Sometimes I'm Happy."

"In April" first appeared on the 1978 Bill Evans album New Conversations  as "For Nanette," named for the late pianist's wife, who shortly before Meredith's recording session approved Roger Schore's lyrics. Deeply affected by Evans's music, Meredith and Eddie give sensitive interpretation to one of his little known pieces. Rufus Reid's bowed glissando enriches the ending.

Reid's pizzicato soloing begins the only slightly better known "Autumn Serenade." Meredith cryptically describes the song as having a feeling that is "real Vermont. It's airy," she says. "It makes you want to hold somebody." Higgins's lacy solo floats on harmonies that shift and glow. Under Meredith's deliciously long final note, he does a little blues dance.

"I didn't even plan to have "Young And Foolish" on the album," Meredith says. "And when we were in the studio, I found that I just couldn't leave it out. I've been singing this for a year, and I'm in love with it. Eddie taught me the original lyrics to the verse, and they replace the ones I wrote in 1964 after I heard the song on Bill Evans's Waltz For Debby album." Higgins's solo recalls Evans. Musicians who have never met her fall in love with Meredith because of things like her melodic variations and phrasing following the piano solo. Such interpretation comes close to recomposition.

Even closer is what Meredith achieves in "I Love You/You I Love." The part before the / is Cole Porter. The part after is d'Ambrosio's composition, a jazz solo with lyrics. This is not King Pleasure, Eddie Jefferson or Jon Hendricks fitting words to someone's solo. It is a new song written by the singer on the Porter changes. In "Oh, Look At Me Now/But now Look At Me," she again produces a written line that has the freshness of improvisation. That is a rare achievement even among experienced jazz composers and arrangers. Add to it the ability to marry these sparkling written improvisations with lyrics that make sense, and you have a unique talent. Asked about the source of inspiration for these creations, Meredith says, "I'm a musician. I think I'm also a saxophone."

Pianist Denny Zeitlin's "Quiet Now," andother peice with close connections to Bill Evans, has lyrics by the Texas singer Suzy Stern. The words for "Get Used To It Baby" and "That Old Sweet Song" were written aroungs 1985 by Dan Davis, a poet Meredith knew when she was living in Eugene, Oregon. She provided the music and the considerable range of sensual interpretation required by these songs. Meredith wrote "Heaven Sent" for Eddie in the spring of 1990. In two hours. While he was on an errand. When he got home, it was ready, as a surprise. He was surprised. And pleased.

Meredith's version of "All Or Nothing At All" carries a surprise of its own. Eddie begins it by improvising a chorus without stating the melody. That is left to Meredith, who enters in a new key and negotiates the low notes in the tenor range, with quiet expressiveness. Reid has a nifty solo.There have been attempts in the past to match lyrics to trombonist J.J. Johnson's "Lament." The piece was written and recorded by Johnson for a Savoy date in 1954 and made famous in a collaboration three years later between Miles Davis and Gil Evans, who took liberties with the melody. Not until he saw Meredith's lyrics, which were based on the unaltered original, did he agree to allow words to be published.

Victor Herbert's "Indian Summer" has survived decades of moony performances and has intriquing possibilities for those who know how to unlock its perennial freshness. Meredith has the key (B Flat major) and loans it to Higgins, who discovers, among other swing-era ghosts, robins nesting. Rufus bows in with a virtuoso solo. There is an exchange of fours between Eddie and Keith Copeland, who until now has been content to nicely mind the time. Meredith re-enters an easy (for her) octave higher than Mr. Herbert had in mind and adds a tag ending that concludes with an idiomatic ford farewell to the season.

Like "Lament," Horace Silver's "Peace" is a classic from the 1950s that is being frequently recorded by instrumentalists in the 1990s. Vocal versions have been rare. There was no concern about the composer accepting the lyrics; he wrote them. This peaceful performance should give him great pleasure.

Further reflection from Meredith on "Oh, Look At Me Now," mentioned above in connection with her compositional abilities: "That's a song I listened to in 1947 for a whole year, when I was five or six years old. It was so wonderful. I never forgot that song, ever. It swung. I picked it up in the early 80s and I've been doing it since."

The recording to which young Meredith had all that exposure was Tommy Dorsey's, with the vocal by Frank Sinatra, Connie Haines and the Pied Pipers. It was made in 1941 and it was ubiquitous on the radio, juke boxes and home phonographs for a decade. "I'm early forties," she sighs. "I loved that sound. I wish it would still be here and never disappear. I'm very nostalgic for that time. That warmth. It was so romantic. And I just refuse to have anybody tell me that I can't do these things.

"One of the reasons it took me so many years to finally record was that people were trying to get me to do commercial stuff, and I simply refused. I decided I was going to do what I wanted to do. I guess I'm just a very willful person."

Thank God.
Doug Ramsey
BewareOfSpring 			Beware Of Spring
To judge from the liner notes to her previous recordings, I am a typical Meredith d'Ambrosio fan. It was love at first sound when I was introduced to this magical singer/pianist, which in my case happened to be on her second album, Another Time, was totally exposed in a solo recital; her equally exceptional choice of material, with just a hint (one tune) that this singer was also a gifted composer; and, most important, her absolute emotional empathy, which took d'Ambrosio straight to the core of a lyric's meaning, to mine it deeply without overstating a point or treading musical water, all bore the mark of one of Jazz's great vocal artists.

She has been eliciting such reactions for quite a while, to judge from John Coltrane's 1963 invitation for d'Ambrosio to join his group for a Japanese tour. Not as an opening act, but as a featured singer with the Coltrane quartet! With a young daughter to care for, d'Ambrosio had no choice but to turn Coltrane down. So the world waited, for another 15 years, until d'Ambrosio found her way to a recording studio. The album in Lost In His Arms, reissued on Sunnyside 1018D, and she insists that she was tricked into making it by an invitation to just see how her voice would sound in a studio. The intervening period was spent working as a solo act, with eyes focused on other artistic prizes. "To me," she will admit, "music was just a means to support my career as a painter."

No doubt her visual acuity, displayed in the paintings that grace most of her album covers, reinforces her musical perceptiveness. The house that d'Ambrosio and her husband, pianist Eddie Higgins, inhabit on Cape Cod during several months of the year is filled with her watercolors - a few of the remaining unsold eggshell mosaics (a technique that d'Ambrosio invented, then abandoned as too time consuming) and more recent views of home, family and travels. Road trips with d'Ambrosio must be quite an adventure, because she is constantly stopping to sketch or photograph scenes that will later be recreated in paint. Watercolors of French country roads, Scottish castles and the like were evidence of her recent journeys and the impressions they left.

Those not fortunate enough to view a collection of d'Ambrosio's paintings receive a gallery of impressions each time she releases a new collection of songs. A key to her success, of course, is her phonebook voice - give her a page of your local directory to sing and she'll turn it into poetry; but d'Ambrosio doesn't sing the phonebook. She makes the most astute choices of material to be heard in any vocal idiom, thanks to her ability to hear songs completely. While she clearly loves a well-turned melodic line or harmonic detail, lyrical content is most important. d'Ambrosio likes to tell a story when she sings, and likes the story to have resonance in her life and the life of her listeners. That is why she chose Susannah McCorkle's lyrics from among several English-language versions of the Italian classic "Estate." McCorkle, not content to merely indulge in seasonal wordplay, created a vignette that sounded true to life.

There are many such scenarios available, and d'Ambrosio knows thousands. She claimed a repertoire of 2000 tunes on an early album, and has been adding to it ever since. Among them in the current batch are such gems as "Fools Fall In Love," one of Irving Berlin's lesser-known works that d'Ambrosio remembers from Lucy Reed's 1955 encounter with Bill Evans, and "Through A Long And Sleepless Night," an Alfred Newman movie opus that (to this listener's knowledge) has only been covered by Bobby Darin. She included "After Awhile" because she is fond of Steve Allen's writing, and had previously recorded his "Everybody Knows" on The Cove, Sunnyside 1028D - although this time Allen only supplied the lyrics and the music is by Jennie Smith. And "Moon Dreams" was a longtime favorite from the classic Miles Davis Birth Of The Cool sessions, although the Davis Nonet version did not include Johnny Mercer's lyrics.

d'Ambrosio also has the rare knack of being able to write them as good as she picks them. Her words grace pianist Kevin Gibbs's melody on "Summer Of My Life (the pair also collaborated on two tunes from d'Ambrosio's Shadowland, Sunnyside 1060D), and she is responsible for both words and music on the title track, "Give It Time" and "No One Knows." As a melody writer, d'Ambrosio shows great range, from the sophisticated turns of "Give It Time" to the more melancholy simplicity of "Beware Of Spring." She is concerned that she got a lyric wrong when she recorded the last number, although the emotional intensity of the performance could not be more accurate.

The reason d'Ambrosio claims for her errant lyric reading on "Beware Of Spring" is the panic she feels when accompanying herself on piano. While her playing is always perfectly in place, completely attuned to the mood each song evokes, one can understand her reluctance to play when she can call upon her husband, one of the great jazz pianists, Higgins and d'Ambrosio's singing even better. This is revealed time and again in the present collection, although nowhere better than on the four paraphrase songs  that d'Ambrosio has crafted from the standards "I Fall In Love Too Easily," "Get Out Of Town," "Dearly Beloved" and "I Had The Craziest Dream." On these tracks, where Higgins can anticipate the surprising turns in d'Ambrosio's melodic variations, there are all kinds of felicitous accompanying touches, as well as indelible piano solos.

The paraphrase songs (the term was coined by Bob Dorough to describe what d'Ambrosio was doing), like the eggshell mosaics, are the singer's invention. They expand upon the meaning of familiar material through written variations in which music and words are developed in tandem, rather than the more familiar vocalese practice of fitting so much content in d'Ambrosio's melodic lines that it is hard to believe they did not originate with an improviser of Bill Evans's stature.
d'Ambrosio explains the title "Cauliflower Soul," which she uses for her paraphrase of "I Fall In Love Too Easily," and a term she coined to describe the emotional battering she received from the vicissitudes of life. Yet it is her gift to have surmounted these various challenges while still holding on to their deeper meanings, which she translates into such stunning words and sounds. She and Higgins have formed a perfect partnership, enhanced here by drummer Jeff Hirshfield and bassist George Mraz, who plays some of his most melodic recorded solos throughout the date. Like the rest of her loyal fans, I would argue that Meredith d'Ambrosio has never made a bad recording; for my money, though, Beware Of Spring!  may be her best.

Bob Blumenthal
Shadowland 			Shadowland
It has often been said that the favorite singer of songwriters was Fred Astaire. The reason is that Astaire sang songs as written, something songwriters treasure.

When a song is well-written, the intervals of the music match or approximate the intervals of the words as they would sound if you spoke them. Consider, for example, "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face." Altering the intervals changes the emotional inflection of the words. But jazz singers dearly love to do this, and some of them like to throw in extra words of their own as well. Richard Rodgers once forced a jazz singer to take a record off the market.

Only a very few singers have been able to introduce variations on a song and somehow enhance the words, and all of them have been pianists. Carmen McRae is one of them. Another is Meredith d'Ambrosio.

One of the reasons I was taken by Meredith's singing the first time I encountered it several years ago was the simplicity of her readings. She seemed to be following, whether or not she had ever even heard it, the dictum of one of the great songwriters, Richard Whiting: "Sing 'em the way we wrote 'em." She always displayed this respect for the song. When she sings variations, it is only after a carefully accurate exposition of the original song.

A couple of decades ago, various singers began experiments with putting words to famous jazz solos. The work was ingenious and clever, but not as difficult as it seemed. It is easier to write lyrics to great streams of notes, which permit you all sorts of alternate choices, and in such lyrics there was never much consideration to whether the natural speech inflections matched those of the music. It is hard to write lyrics to extremely simple melodies with long notes everywhere, because the choices are so restricted.

Meredith has gone beyond singing variations on melodies, doing something totally different than anyone else in jazz, as far as I know, ever did before. Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and others wrote new melodies on the chord changes of existing songs. Meredith was doing that, writing fluent and often ingenious variations on known tunes, but doing something else besides: writing variations on the lyrics as well, new words suggested by the old. Thus "Alone Together" gets an invention on both the words and the music, a new song named "Solitary Two." She sings the original song as written, then begins her own invention based on it, which she calls a paraphrase song.

Not all the tunes get this treatment. "Zigeuner" (which means Gypsy) is a 1929 tune by Noel Coward that sets the stage for a solo by the great John Frigo, a colleague of Eddie Higgins during the latter's years in Chicago, and one of the most distinctive violinists ever to apply that instrument to jazz. But the Axel Stordahl-Paul Weston-Sammy Cahn "I Should Care" begets a second song, "The Sheepcounter's Lament." Meredith wrote lyrics to ten songs in all for this album, some of them originals such as "Shadowland" (which has music by Dave McKenna) and "In My Uncertain World" (music by Kevein Gibbs), as well as these variations inspired by standards, the paraphrase songs. On "Amazon Lily," for which she wrote both music and lyrics, she plays piano. "The guys," Meredith said, "put up with me."

One of the reasons, perhaps, that Meredith plays so seldom on recent records is that since her first album, she married fellow New Englander Eddie Higgins, a great pianist and one of the most lyrical and sensitive accompanists in the business. Eddie wrote the arrangements for this album. "I Should Care," You Leave Me Breathless" and their variation, however, had no arrangements. And they got them all on the first take.

That testifies to the level of musicianship in her accompanists, Jay Leonhart (not only a superb bassist but himself the clever writer of highly individual songs) on bass, Ben Riley on drums, and the fabulous Frigo on fiddle. Ron Kozak plays flute and bass clarinet, Blair Tindall, oboe and English horn, and Erik Friedlander, cello.

Meredith could, as this album illustrates, have a career entirely as a songwriter. But if you have seen her paintings on album covers, you already know that she could have a career as an artist. Come to think of it, she does have careers in all these things.

Gene Lees
Gene Lees, who wrote the lyrics to such songs as "Yesterday I Heard The Rain" and "Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars," has written a number of books on jazz and is publisher of the Gene Lees Jazzletter, P.O. Box 240, Ojai, California 93024-0240.
SleepWarm 			Sleep Warm
Lullabies for small and bigger children
Dedicated to Meredith’s granddaughter, Emmalyne
with special thanks to Christine Berthet and Lew Spence
No liner notes for Sleep Warm.
SilentPassion 			Silent Passion
This album is a story about finding love and losing it, and about resolution that brings comfort. as in one of Meredith d'Ambrosio's eggshell mosaics, the story's direct and simple effect on the emotions grows out of her mastery of a complex craft. The elements in the mosaic of this musical painting are pieces of Meredith's life and passions seen through the exacting lens of her artistry.

In the notes for Love Is Not A Game  (Sunnyside SSC 1051D), I suggested that the best of American popular music is the art song of the 20th century, our equivalent of German lieder. In four of the songs in this collection, Meredith combines the classic lieder  roles of poet, composer and performer. With exquisite attention to themes, tempos, rhythms and keys, she coalesces her own songs and eight by some of the finest American writers, from Jerome Kern to Johnny Mandel.

"The album is vey personal," Meredith says, "and yet, one can't be too open beause it has to be the listener's experience too." An album by a vocal actress as intimate as this one is a theater of the mind. She establishes the mood; the listener designs the sets and imagines the action.

"Relaxing and thoughtful," she says, "that's what it's supposed to be. If you want to make love, make love. If you want to think about the words, you can do that."

These days, Meredith seems to have a complex about her piano playing. It may have something to do with being married to Eddie Higgins, one of the most accomplished jazz pianists. Eddie accompanied her on four previous Sunnyside albums. Hank Jones, Fred Hersch and Harold Danko have also backed her, enough to trigger reflection in any pianist. Nonetheless, she has a canny ear for the chords, tempos and timing she requires, and keyboard ability to put them at the service of her voice. Sunnyside's François Zalacain suggested that she accompany herself in this album and that she add a guitarist. Gene Bertoncini provides the perfect combination of restraint and propulsion. Those qualities are evident throught the album, but nowhere more delightfully than in Jerome Kern's and Ira Gershwin's "Long Ago (And Far Away). Bertoncini demonstrates that a guitar can enhance a piano while staying out of its way, and he contributes a delicious riff to the swinging suspended ending.

"Long Ago (And Far Away)" was introduced by Nan Wynn, who sang it to Rita Hayworth's lip-synching in the 1944 motion picture Cover Girl . Bing Crosby, Jo Stafford, Perry Como, and Helen Forrest with Dick Haynes had successful follow-up recordings. In the early 1950s, Chet Baker included it in his debut vocal album. In his book American Popular Song , Alec Wilder went out of his way to knock the verse as superfluous, but he had not heard Meredith sing it.

One of the reasons Meredith considers this a "very personal" album is Silent Passion. A producer moved by the story the song represented asked her to write a screenplay based on it. The screenplay is in the hands of the producer, so to her list of credits as singer, songwriter, pianist and painter, Meredith may soon add screenwriter.

Ethel Merman sang Irving Berlin's "I Got Lost In His Arms" in the smash 1946 Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun. Merman recorded it as a Decca single. The song was not in the 1950 version with Betty Hutton. Meredith led her first album (Lost In His Arms, Sunnyside SSC 1018) with a short version of the song. She learned years later that her 1978 recording of the song was a favorite of Helen Keane, Bill Evans's manager and a trailblazing woman executive in the music business. Meredith sent a tape of this new performance to Helen's hospital room shortly before she died in 1996 and dedicates this album to her memory.

"Knight In Shining Karma" is an interlude, a bridge piece entwined with the mystery and mystique of the love story implied in the song "Silent Passion" and told in the screenplay.

"All Through The Day" is from Jerome Kern's last score for the 1946 motion picture Centennial Summer. In the film, Louanne Hogan sang it for Jeanne Crain. Frank Sinatra's recording with Axel Stordahl is memorable. So is this one. In the final chorus, Meredith reaches for the moon, Taking the word up an octave in "down smiles the moon." It's a sweet bit of magic.

According to his biographer, Tony Thomas, Harry Warren considered "Spring Isn't Everything" one of his best songs. It is, unfortunately, also one of his least-known, for good reason. Warren and Ralph Blane wrote it for Walter Houston to sing in Summer Holiday, MGM's 1948 musical remake of Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness. The song did not make the final cut. Moviegoers heard only a bit of its melody as background music at the end of the film. Houston's version showed up in the 1970s on an obscure LP of songs cut from motion pictures. Maxine Sullivan included the song in an Audiophile album of Warren compositions, but it languished until Meredith's friend Rex Reed called it to her attention.

Meredith wrote her paraphrase "A Skyful  of Teardrops" for the Florida jazz broadcaster, China Valles, after he told her his favorite song was "Don't Take Your Love From Me." She unveiled the piece at a surprise birthday party for Valles. The opening lyric in the paraphrase was "Listen, China, if you tear one star out of the dark blue sky . . . " For a general audience, it becomes "Listen, baby, . . . "

Seasoned d'Ambrosio listeners will know that this brings to a dozen the number of her ingenious paraphrase songs, which amount to composed jazz improvisations with lyrics. A publisher is preparing a folio edition of sheet music of the twelve [now 15, ed.] Meredith d'Ambrosio's Paraphrase Songs for the Jazz Singer  will be intended to help budding (and perhaps not so budding) singers learn to handle intervals.

The Boston pianist and composer Kevin Gibbs, now living in San Francisco, at first resisted the idea of having words put to "No Solution." He changed his mind after he saw Meredith's lyrics to another of his pieces, "In My Uncertain World" (Shadowland, Sunnyside SSC 1060D). Her words complement the melody to transmit a sense of impending loss that makes the transition to "The Thrill Is Gone" seem inevitable.

Lew Brown and Ray Henderson wrote "The Thrill Is Gone" for the 1931 edition (the 11th) of George White's Scandals, the assembly line of Broadway revues. Rudy Vallee and Ross McLean were the backup singers for Everett Marshall. Ella Mae Morse had a hit version with Freddie Slack's band in the forties. Bertoncini finds the blues heart of the song. Meredith performs a public service by correcting Henderson's grammatical horror, "Now it don't appeal to you." Someone should have done it long ago. In the coda, she indulges in a bit of mild scatting, not her favorite pastime, but quite effective here. About those interesting harmonies in the introduction, Meredith says the chords in the first eight bars are by Haydn (aka Eddie) Higgins, "but the changes in the second eight are mine."

Gertrude Niesen introduced Jimmy McHugh's and Harold Adamson's "Where Are You" in the 1937 movie Top Of The Town. Gertrude and the flick are pretty much lost in the mists of Hollywood history, but the song has had a steady run since Les Brown revived it in 1948. Continuing in the vein of associations and relationships that inspired the album, Meredith included "Where Are You" for Peri Moreno, a singer with the band led by her husband, Buddy. "Peri's a good singer," Meredith says, "and one of my favorite people."

Johnny Mandel's "The Shining Sea" is a lovely ballad from an unlikely source, a screwball 1966 movie called The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. Meredith chose it "because I live so close to the sea and I walk on the beach with one who would be missed. I try to imagine why Peggy Lee wrote these lyrics and who she was missing."

"Motherland" is for Meredith's mother and her mother's mother. Her grandmother excaped from a village near Warsaw in 1913, when Poland was under  the oppressive domination of Czarist Russia. Underscored by the simple strength of its harmonies, the song tells of solace and consolation sent across time through bloodlines and received in the heart. It is one of Meredith's most affecting compositions. Its phrases will keep resounding through you.

Doug Ramsey
Doug Ramsey is the author of Jazz Matters: Reflection on the Music and Some of its Makers (University of Arkansas Press) and a regular contributor to Jazz Times.
Echo 			Echo Of A Kiss
Echo Of A Kiss, singer/composer/lyricist Meredith d'Ambrosio's 12th CD for Sunnyside, is an album devoted to songs of lost love and autumnal remembrance. Memories haunt the persona of the singer, giving her both pleasure and pain, and perhaps giving instruction to her listeners, if only by example. The singer has chosen to dive in and experience life and love, whatever the outcome may be. Meredith has programmed the music in such a way that the CD begins with songs of youthful innocence and experience, then moves toward recollection and reflection. Just as the timbre of d'Ambrosio's voice (and the way she produces it) always has some brightness in it (there's some "high" color even on very low notes), her songs are sustained by hope, humor, and a romantic belief in the supreme importance of continually engaging in love when it appears. When you make art out of experience you have something beautiful to remember it by - an echo of a kiss.

Benny Carter's "When Lights Are Low" from  1936 is a fitting opener, it's a gently upbeat, optimistic invitation to love. The tune and Meredith's voice are soft, soothing, welcoming, low-key, comforting, confidential, and straightforward. Meredith wrote lyrics for the fills Miles Davis played on the famous 1956 Prestige recording, Cookin' With The Miles Davis Quintet, which have become an integral part of the tune. The grace, wit, and coherence of Mike Renzi's asides and solo remind me of Tommy Flanagan, a beautiful pianist of Miles's generation who's still creating musical gems.

"Without Reason, Without Rhyme" (words and music by d'Ambrosio) is a singable melody with a poignant half-rhyme ("again" with "pain"). It's about giving your all, bittersweet memories, and a readiness to do it again.

"Beautiful Love" is taken at a breathless pace so that Meredith can half-time her paraphrase song "Gorgeous Creature" at a sensuous, luxurious tempo. She takes a lyric about abstract, almost naive love and fleshes it out so that it becomes an earthy song about sexual, romantic longing for a living, "breathing" man. She composed a new melody based on the chord changes of "Beautiful Love" and reworked the words and ideas to make a witty, wooing siren song of her own. Renzi, Leonhart, and Clarke evoke the sound of the Bill Evans trio (who often played this tune) during the instrumental break. When d'Ambrosio reprises "Beautiful Love" she edits the lyric and flattens out the shape of the melody. Both her paraphrase song and her restatement of the lyric bring the song down to earth and give it renewed meaning.

Who else but Lorenz Hart could make up one of the world's most romantic lyrics from a list of things a romance doesn't need? In "My Romance" he uses the rhetorical device called occupatio  to evoke some of the mainstays of trite love song writing while distancing himself from them. Meredith writes a thoughtful revision of the verse's lyric and Leonhart has a succinct, buoyant solo. This track is beautiful and believable and gives us hope that love can exist with your eyes wide open, "wide awake."

With romantic love often comes the pain of envy, so next up is "Blue In Green" with a rueful lyric by Meredith. Bill Evans wrote it for the Miles Davis Columbia LP Kind Of Blue.

"Once Upon A Full Moon Night" gives the illusion of flight and movement; it appears to be changing keys, but it's not. It's just the restlessness of unrequited love seeking an outlet and refuge from itself.

"Chance With A Ghost" is d'Ambrosio's paraphrase song for "I Don't Stand a Ghost Of A Chance With You." It's deadly serious and also has fun at the expense of a playboy who's a ghost, unavailable because he's not capable of loving one woman. Instead of pining away for someone who will never even know you exist, as in the Victor Young song, it is healthier to identify who the real ghost is.

Meredith's voice evokes the naive innocence and disenchantment of "April Fooled Me," a song Rex Reed brought to her attention. Dorothy Fields added the lyric to a Jerome Kern tune she was given by Eva Kern, his widow. The repeated phrases ending with descending intervals identify it as a Kern melody. It's the story of someone whose bad experience with love my never allow her to love again.

"Time Remembered" is a Bill Evans tune, with a lyric supplied by Paul Lewis after Evans died. Peace and a "quiet mind" are evoked.

"Black Butterfly" is a Duke Ellington tune from 1937 whose advice to a social butterfly is to settle down and find love "before it's too late." The only other vocal version I've heard is Sarah Vaughn's on Pablo. Renzi plays here in a lovely style reminiscent of Ellis Larkins.

"Why Do I Still Dream Of You?" is another lovely ballad by Meredith, very romantic and spiritual, not bitter.

"Echo Of A Kiss is d'Ambrosio's lyric to pianist Denny Zeitlin's tune. It's about the process of coming to terms with deception, lost love, and bittersweet memories.

Winter and spiritual rest arrive with Claude Thornhill's "Snowfall" from  1941 and d'Ambrosio's revision of Ruth Thornhill's words. Meredith has described herself as a spiritual child of the '30s and '40s, when popular music of this quality was not uncommon. The trio here is impeccable: supportive, understated, and quietly orchestral.

"Where Were You At Christmas?" has words by poet  Dan Davis which d'Ambrosio set to music. Here's one more reflection for the wintry season. The process of singing all the songs on Echo Of A Kiss  allows the singer's persona to make a clean break with the past. The new year may bring with it new hope . . . new love.

You can't help but be touched, changed, or enlightened by Meredith d'Ambrosio's artistry, which astonishingly continues to develop. It's a pleasure to listen to her, her music, and her musicians, and a priviledge to write about her work. Enjoy!

Lora Rosner
Jackson Heights, New York
March 1998
OutOfNowhere 			Out Of Nowhere
Passive listening won't get you far here. Meredith d'Ambrosio doesn't exactly take songs and throw them in your lap. She wafts them at you on soft breezes, lyrics and melody transformed into diaphanous ribbons  of silk. Hers is a profound aesthetic of reticence, challenging you to listen with the concentration and attention you must lavish on following the flight of an eagle at twilight along chiaroscuro deepened canyon walls.

Henry James would have loved Meredith d'Ambrosio. She approaches songs as circumspectly as James approached the feelings of his characters. So even the most hopelessly romantic love songs here are understated in d'Ambrosio's exquisitely soft, supple voice, proving refined emotions can be as real as, and more affecting than passionate bluster, but only if you listen, actively and attentively.

This is an album of love songs. The goal was a collection of standards; in a more perfect world all these songs would qualify. But these aren't your usual round of familiar songs, the ones you expect to hear on cabaret and jazz stages and recordings. Some of them, yes, but surprisingly few. Yet they all resonate with the pull on memory that is the hallmark of a standard.

Take "Easy Come, Easy Go." Meredith heard it as an instrumental on an early Marian McPartland album. It turns out the John Green melody was background music in a 1934 movie "Bachelor Of Arts." d'Ambrosio found the lyrics, by Edward Heyman, and the song, and the song she says "should be a standard" now anchors a set of (the first) six songs, describing the arc of a love affair, from "Out Of Nowhere" and "All This And Heaven Too," through "On The Bumpy Road To Love" and "My Foolish Heart" to "The Song Is Ended" - hence "Easy come, Easy Go."

There are surprises along the arc too. "Bumpy Road" bumps along, close to boisterous at times. "My Foolish Heart" is wistful, a feeling enforced by the stately descending final line, shaded by bowed bass. Irving Berlin's "The Song Is Ended," the oldest song on the album, is given a jaunty tempo akin to a Frank Sinatra two-beat finger-snapper. Then, during the last reprise, the original waltz time insinuates itself into the bridge. That upbeat version perfectly sets up the story's denouement, with its emphasis on the "easy" of "easy go."

"I always try to make a story, step by step, within an album," admits d'Ambrosio. The story is more atmospheric than narrative in the last seven songs, from queries to desires to regrets. Mary Lou Williams's "What's Your Story, Morning Glory?," with Michael Leonhart's growl-muted trumpet in earthy contrast to the singer's decorous blues, is paired with Blossom Dearie's "Isn't That The Thing To Do?"

"The music is more important to me than the lyrics," says Meredith, "and Blossom's song is an unusual, intriguing composition with very romantic words. It's everything all at once."

"Dance Only With Me" is another gem that deserves to be more of a standard. d'Ambrosio floats over the delicate waltz time of the trio, the mood enhanced by an arco bass solo. Then the tempo doubles as d'Ambrosio flirts with the beat, finally ending with a soft, descending line.

"Stopping The Clock," an exuberant love song by Roy Kral and Fran Landesman, gives d'Ambrosio an opportunity to display her jazzier side as she coolly bends and stretches the lyrics against loosely improvised rhythms from drummer Terry Clarke.

Meredith says she doesn't like to hear other singers do songs she's going to do, a good explanation of why so many of the songs here are lesser known standards, or at least, like "All This And Heaven Too," better known for jazz instrumental versions. But she must have heard versions of "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes."

"It's very romantic," she says, "but from an era when you could get away with a lot more. I don't often sing it because it tends to be too melodramatic." Not here. d'Ambrosio rescues the song from easy sentiment, wipes away almost all the tears, and makes the ending more resigned that sad.

"All In Fun," a Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein collaboration, could be mistaken for a Cole Porter exercise in romantic irony. d'Ambrosio gives it just the right degree of ennui, making the declaration of love almost an afterthought.

Meredith credits pianist Lee Musiker with turning her own song, "I Will Follow Spring," into a "brilliant poetic mood." His lush playing only enhances the hyper-romantic mood of the lyric, an uncompromising demand for total love to make the singer "know the rapture only you can bring/But until that time/I will follow Spring."

Musiker and his trio mates, bassist Jay Leonhart and drummer Terry Clarke, work in finely meshed empathy with d'Ambrosio, making the instrumental solos extensions and embellishments of the vocal moods and the album a unified whole.

George Kanzler
The Star-Ledger (N.J.)
LoveIsForBirds144 			Love Is For The Birds
If you listen your way through Meredith d'Ambrosio's fourteen Sunnyside CDs, you will discover a woman in love with love in all of its guises, enchantments and bedevilments. This collection continues her love story and marks a milestone in her song writing.

"The concept of this ablum is to be aware," she told me. "Love is so elusive. One must be careful or one will get hurt. But then, one can always bounce back, or be strong, or wish for something else. Anything that's involved with love is on this album; its ins and outs and disappointments and happinesses and expectations, dreams and excitements and naughtinesses." She paused. "Oh, I shouldn't have said that. I hope you'll censor anything that sounds too brash and unladylike," she said, laughing heartily, "if you don't mind. I'm a shy person."

d'Ambrosio wrote all the the love stories here, and the music for more than half of them. The music for the others comes from instrumental compositions by musicians whose work she admires. Among her recent projects, in addition to concerts, recordings, a screenplay and - always - her painting, is the creation of lyrics to pieces by Kenny Dorham, Harold Land, Clifford Brown, Tom IcIntosh, Eddie Higgins and Ralph Moore. Don Sickler arranged the sextet numbers and plays trumpet and flügelhorn. Lee Musiker collaborated with d'Ambrosio on the trio pieces and plays piano throughout. She adapted "Cup Of Life" from "Cup Bearers." Tom McIntosh wrote the piece for Dizzy Gillespie's 1963 Philips album Something Old, Something New. A verse by the classic Eastern love poet Rumi inspired her words.

"I read it in school when I was in the seventh grade," she said. "I've never forgotten it. This was the entire poem"

Is the water of life
Drink it
With thy heart and soul.

"In the Kabbala, the cup is love; thus, the bearers of love, cup bearers. Tommy had a spritual or religious thought in mind, but I infused spirituality with love. He liked that and accepted the lyric." Between Meredith's choruses are solos by Sickler, tenor saxophonist Bob Kindred and trombonist John Allred. The first of Musiker's uncannily appropriate introductions leads to Meredith's interpretation of the legend of Steppenwolf created by Herman Hesse in his 1927 novel. She focuses not on the book's duality of man and beast, but on the melding of souls and the sadness of separation.

Of Musiker's contribution to the album, Meredith said, "After I arranged the songs, Lee put his thoughts on beginnings and endings. He really knows, he understands, not just the lyrics, but the actual compositions. He added some incredible  things and made magic.

Musiker's prestidigitation makes Stravinsky's "Rite Of Spring" appear before our very ears in the introduction to "Rhyme Of Spring." The song is based on "Poetic Spring" from trumpeter Kenny Dorham's 1959 Riverside album Blue Spring.  d'Ambrosio was born on the first day of spring. She says that she is haunted by the season. "Something happens to me before my birthday. I start writing spring songs. Does this make me an incurable romantic? Well, even if there's a pill, I don't want to take the cure." The horns exchange eight-bar phrases and bassist Jay Leonhart solos in a chorus of cleanly articulated ideas. Meredith's tag line is a perfect match for the notes and the spirit of Dorham's coda. At the behest of Don Sickler, she has written lyrics for a folio of compositions by Dorham, Art Farmer and others.

There were two inspirations for Meredith's "Valentine." The first came from a dream that has recurred to her for years. In it, she and the co-star of the dream get serious. They want to slip away and get more serious. Then she awakens, only to experience the frustration again in the dream's next appearance, and the next. The second inspiration grew out of a situation familiar to most successful performers. Early in her career, d'Ambrosio sang "My Funny Valentine" twice a night, five nights a week. Audiences demanded it. She wanted an alternative, and finally wrote one, "so I could say to requests, 'Well, I have a Valentine song; you want to hear it?'"

"That Magic Rapture," with its captivating line, "I loved you before I was born," is an amalgam of d'Ambrosio's lyrics and tenor saxophonist Harold Land's "Rapture," from Mopenzi, a 1977 Concord LP long out of print. Land recorded the piece most recently in a 1996 concert appearance with trumpeter Art Farmer (Live At Sanford Jazz Workshop,  Monarch Records). It was one of Farmer's last recordings before his death in 1999.

"I have written lyrics to four of Harold Land's pieces," d'Ambrosio said. "I picked this one for the album because it is one of my favorites of his tunes," In his solo, Sickler captures the feeling of Farmer's lyrical style.

Meredith describes "I May Be The One" as "my romanticism flying out of my brain. It's autobiographical. All of these songs are autobiographical. A man in an audience came up and said, "You know, you're like an open book,' and I told him, 'I can't help it."

I suggested that anyone who rhymes "be rare" with "beware, ' as she does in "Tell This Poor Fool," must have the soul of an Elizabethan. She said, "I think of myself always as an Elizabethan poet. I'm way back there with Shakespeare and Bacon and the whole lot of them, because there's rhythm to the way they talk. This song tells what I meant about being careful in love or you're going to get hurt. Here's a person who's probably in for a hurt." Her arrangement includes a subtle four-bar section of three-quarter time, which was going to be the album's only bow toward the waltz. Then, virtually at the recording session's last moment, she received permission from Ralph Moore to include his "Josephine" transformed by Meredith's lyrics into "Don't Go," the most explicit of these love songs. The tenor saxophonist wrote "Josephine" for his 1988 Criss Cross album Rejuvenated.  In Sickler's arrangement, the horns play rich obbligato to d'Ambrosio's expression of longing. Bob Kindred's tenor sax solo is an instrumental highlight of the collection.

In d'Ambrosio's songwriting credo, lyrics should be created after the music is in place. She fashioned the words for "Just A Dream" to fit pianist Eddie Higgins's floating samba "Falando De Orlando." The collaboration was convenient. D'Ambrosio and Higgins are married. "I wrote the lyrics on Cape Cod. I thought about the bay behind our house, and whispering winds, and it fell into place. Balmy breezes need flutes, so I asked Bob Kindred to play a flute solo."

Meredith vocalizes a bit as the tune ends. You might call it non-scatting. She has hardly ever been known to scat, although her musicianship and vocal technique equip her to do it. "Peoplecan tire of it," she said. "With few exceptions, no one sounds like the instrument they're supposed to be imitating. The voice is the instrument, and you sing with it."

With its bright tempo and sunny harmonic pattern, "Love Is For The Birds" is a song of farewell. Or is it a song of new beginnings?" "It speaks for itself," the composer says.

Trumpeter Clifford Brown's "Daahoud" is one of the most honored of all modern jazz compositions. In d'Ambrosio's conversion, it becomes "Beloved" which is what Daahoud means in Arabic and what the equivalent David  means in Hebrew. "It's a hip romantic song," she told me. Her phrasing of the first sixteen bars of the final chorus is a perfect demonstration of hip romantic singing. If there is or should be such a category, jazz singing has much more to do with this kindof rhythmic and harmonic creativity than with the acrobatics of scatting.

"I was crazy about Clifford Brown," she said. "He was the king of hip playing." His effect on Meredith and Eddie is reflected in part in what they call their Chocolate Labrador Retriever. His name is Clifford Brown. Sickler's solo reflects the original Clifford's pervasive influence on trumpet players. Picking up the spirit of tribute, Allred does the same regarding J. J. Johnson, a hero of trombonists and an early champion to Brown.

"Everything John Allred does is like magic, as far as I'm concerned," Meredith said, "and Don Sickler is one of the coolest players I've ever heard. Bob Kindred can play anything. Jay Leonhart kills me. He's been with me on three other albums. Joe Ascione is the most exciting drummer. His inventiveness never quits."

Spring rears its lovely head again in "Blame It All On Spring." d'Ambrosio wrote it a few weeks before the recording session. "I was in one of my Walter Mitty romantically inclined moods," she said. Musiker's introduction and accompaniment mirror her frame of mind.

The album closes with Meredith's tribute to Dave Frishberg and Bob Dorough, who are with d'Ambrosio in the lightly populated class of singer-songwriters producing the modern art song. Working from a premise by publisher Ray Passman, who is friend to all three, she manages to evoke the styles of Frishberg and Dorough in a song that is pure d'Ambrosio.

This is the first Meredith d'Ambrosio CD made up of only her own material, albeit in collaboration with jazz instrumentalist-composers. Even "Beloved (Daahoud)", the best known melody here, is hardly a popular standard. Yet, d'Ambrosio's musicianship, intelligence and warmth make the album seem as comfortable and familiar as a collection of songs by the Gershwins, Porter, Arlen and Kern.

Doug Ramsey
Doug Ramsey is the author of Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music and Some of its Makers (University of Arkansas Press). He is a contributor to The Oxford Companion To Jazz (2002), a regular contributor to Jazz Times and the winner of an ASCAP Deems Taylor.
WishingOnTheMoon144 			Wishing On The Moon
Through her series of Sunnyside albums beginning in 1978, Meredith d'Ambrosio has been tending toward Wishing On The Moon, which is comprised almost entirely of her music and words. Her first album, Lost In His Arms, had fifteen songs by writers like Rodgers and Hart, Berlin, Carmichael, Styne and Porter. The second, 1981's Another Time, contined with standards, but she nestled among the Wilders, Gershwins, Frishbergs and Mandels, "The Piano Player (A Thousand And One Saloons)," a small gem, an anthem of loss with music by d'Ambrosio to lyrics by Bob Dowd.

In 1985, for  It's Your Dance, Meredith combined her musicianship and her love of words to produce "August Moon," like most of her work, a love song. Following a period in Oregon, in 1987 she returned to the east coast, and to recording, with The Cove. The CD had two new songs with her words and music and one by the great bassist Michael Moore with her lyrics. Through the next nine albums, Meredith recorded songs with her words set to existing melodies, two pieces for wich she wrote melodies to poems by Dan Davis, and several additional songs that were hers alone. In Love Is Not A Game (1990) she recorded the first two of her paraphrase songs. One was "You I Love," based on "I Love You." The other, "But Now Look At Me," was inspired by the Frank Sinatra hit "Oh, Look At Me Now," which she fell in love with when she was a little girl. Using the harmonic structures of Cole Porter's and Joey Bushkin's classics, she wrote new words and new melodies, trasforming the pieces into d'Ambrosio originals.

For an album of lullabies, Sleep Warm, Meredith paid tribute to her granddaughter by writing and recording the enchanting "Emmalyne". Then it was back io the innovative melding of her musical and literary selves. Beginning with Shadowland in 1992, she produced and impressive array of paraphrase songs, including the ingenious parings "I Should Care/The Sheepcounter's Lament" and "Alone Together/Solitary Two." During the next decade and four more albums, Meredith sang the standards she loves while continuing to craft new music and lyrics. In 2002, in Love Is For The Birds, she provided much of the music and all of the words. She not only introduced several new original works, but also invented lyrical stories to match instrumental jazz compositions by Tom McIntosh, Clifford Brown, Harold Land, Kenny Dorham, Ralph Moore and Eddie Higgins.

From there to Wishing On The Moon was a short step and a huge accomplishment, a collection of songs of which she is the sole creator except for one piece of music by Dena DeRose and collaboration with Bradford Langer on one set of lyrics. The songs are short stories as much in the art song tradition of Franz Schubert and Hugo Wolff as in that of the great American songwriters. They have narrative flow, the magnetism of lyric poetry and in a couple of cases the pithiness, although not the form, of haiku. Melodies, harmonies and lyrics are exquisitely of a piece.

As an example, hear how the chord progressions in "Have You Noticed?" build through the first twenty-two bars to that crucial, hopeful question in the final two bars. By choice, d'Ambrosio is not a scat singer, but on the rare occasions when she chooses to improvise, she demonstrates that her vocal, harmonic and rhythmic chops could make her a world champion in that abused art or craft. The gentle authority of her musicianship in the suspended ending of this song is such a demonstration, however brief.

Meredith was born on the first day of spring and has an affinity for songs about that season. You'll find a thread of them running through her discography. "Miracle Of Spring" is one of the most charming, a fine companion piece to those by Richard Rodgers, Harry Warren, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Dorham and to several of her own spring songs. I am taken with the melody and rhythm of that first line with its intimations of Gershwin ("Concerto In F") and Jim Hall ("All Across The City") and by Meredith's perfect phrasing through the line, ". . . somehow I felt that someone was waiting out there somewhere . . . " I could go on, but one of the rewards of this album is finding your own treasures.

Meredith's support at the piano comes from Cecilia Coleman, who moved from Los Angeles to New York in 1998 and has become as integral to the jazz scene there as she was to the west coast's. Bassist Tim Givens is another Californian active in New York. He has worked with Coleman, Lou Danaldson, Curtis Fuller and Ray Bryant. Givens is frequently heard with the trio called New York Electric Piano. Drummer Vince Cherico was a member of Ray Barretto's New World Spirit and the Caribbean Jazz Project. He specializes in Brazilian and Afro-Cuban music as well as jazz. The multi-dimensional Don Sickler not only plays trumpet and flügelhorn on Wishing On The Moon ; he also produced the album. Sickler's history of playing, composing, arranging, prodicing and publishing encompasses more than three decades of work with dozens of the best-known musicians in jazz.

As for the quality of Meredith's performance, allow me to quote part of a review I wrote for Jazz Times in 1990.

"Through its use by record industry flacks to describe every new rapper, three-chord guitarist or teenager screaming descriptions of the sex act, the word 'artist' as applied to music has been, shall we say, devalued. In an earlier phase of its evolution it meant a person who used aesthetic principles to produce something beautiful, appealing and extraordinary. Meredith d'Ambrosio is an artist in the pre-merchandising sense. Intelligence. Taste. Restraint. Subtlety. Insinuation. Harmonic sensibility. Voice production that seems effortless. Purity of intonation. Flawless diction, timing and phrasing. These are the aesthetic principles employed by Ms. d'Ambrosio in her wizardry of interpretation. When she merely sings the melody, which is often the case, she finds depths of meaning that can be discovered only by a true artist."

None of that has changed. All of it has intensified.

Doug Ramsey
Doug Ramsey is the author of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, winner of the 2006 Jazz Journalists Association award for best book about jazz. He writes about jazz and other matters at
By Myself
Arthur Schwartz and his lyricists made these 14 songs as stage and screen entertainment. Yet Meredith d'Ambrosio illumines them with beauty and emotional intensity as profound as any collection of Schubert lieder or Granados canciones. Among d'Ambrosio's 17 albums, this is the first devoted to the work of a single composer. Schwartz and his songs are products of the uniquely American alchemy that shaped jazz from a mishmash of ingredients and then melded its spirit with elements of Viennese operetta and the British music hall to create Broadway and motion picture musicals.

In American Popular Song, Alec Wilder observed of Schwartz, "He wrote with total self-assurance and high professional skill and never lingered by the wayside to gaze with longing at the musically greener grass of Culture." Whether d'Ambrosio's reading of his songs would please Schwartz is unknowable; he died in 1984, but Jonathan Schwartz, a noted performer of his father's work and author of a book about him, told me how he feels about Meredith's approach. "To have Meredith record a whole album of my father's songs is quite a treat and, to me, a gift. It's a very sophisticated collection of obscure and well-known work. Song for song, it may be the best collection, the most interesting collection, of Arthur Schwartz songs ever released in this country. Her 'High And Low' is the best 'High And Low' I know, because it's done softly and quietly rather than the cheery way the Astaires did it or the way I swung it in a Sinatra tempo."

Through her interpretive artistry, Meredith uses the songs to tell a story that will touch any listener who has been in love, yearned for love or lost love. She described the choice, preparation and performance of the album as "like magic, a spiritual thing." Her husband, the pianist Eddie Higgins, died in 2009. Meredith and his friends called him by his given name, Haydn. When she recorded, he was a presence.

"I started with 'By Myself','" she said, "because after Haydn was gone, that's exactly what happened to me. And I closed with 'Haunted Heart' because he loved that song. He played it often. It's what he chose to call one of his albums. That song made me cry."

The manipulation of vowels - known in the vocal trade as melisma - is not a regular d'Ambrosio practice, but when she subtly employs it in the word "beyond" at the beginning of the final bridge section of 'Then I'll Be Tired Of You,' it makes Yip Harburg's lyric all the more beguiling. It is an example of a technique so subtle that it does not advertise itself as technique. Following the verse of 'You And The Night And The Music,' listen for the swing she gives the title phrase going into the chorus. Those are just two instances of her gentle wizardry with time, phrasing and interpretation.

Two of these songs may be less familiar to you than the Schwartz standards that occupy most of the album. 'Once Upon A Long Ago' is from the 1956 television production High Tor, which starred Bing Crosby and Julie Andrews. Schwartz and Leo Robin wrote 'Through A Thousand Dreams' for The Time, The Place And The Girl, a 1946 motion picture with Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson and Janis Paige. Meredith said that several people recommended it to her, including Jonathan Schwartz. "No one ever picked up on it," Schwartz told me. "From childhood, I've always known that it was a classic. I'm spreading it around."

Meredith added, "Like so many Arthur Schwartz songs, it's not about being with someone, but that you could be with someone. Same with the Johnny Mercer lyric to 'All Through The Night;' "It's imaginary - in the dreams."

After she chose the songs, Meredith set about adapting them not only to her voice, but also to her piano accompaniment. She reharmonized chords to accommodate her interpretations. She claims to "have no chops," comparing her piano tecnique with that of her mother, who played and sang professionally in Boston and inspired Meredith to become a pianist. Her mother sent the girl first to Miss Julia Lubit's School of Pianoforte, then to a succession of classical piano teachers and to Schillinger House, later named the Berklee School of Music. Bassist Gene Perla initiated Meredith into the mysterious depths of Bill Evans's approach to harmonies. "My mother really played the piano, and she started off classically. She was terrific," Meredith said. "I was envious. I grew up with a complex. I'm just about chords." Anyone paying close attention to the two delicious arpeggios at the end of 'Something To Remember You By' is likely to conclude that she's also about touch and taste.

Of Meredith's Sunnyside CDs, this is the first complete album since Another Time (1981) in which she is the only musician. Credit goes to Sunnyside's Francois Zalacain for getting her to finally overcome reservations about her piano playing - and to her legion of fans in France for keeping the pressure on Sunnyside.

The album's cover is by Meredith. She is as well known in art circles for her painting as she is among music lovers for her singing, playing and songwriting. Her oil painting inside the booklet is of Gypsy Moon, the black and tan coonhound that she and Haydn ordered from a breeder. She was to be Haydn's dog. He did not live to see her. "Gypsy is so smart and funny. I love her so much," Meredith said. "'If There Is Someone Lovelier Than You' is dedicated to her."

Two years following Haydn's death, Meredith and Gypsy left Florida and have a new life in a 330-year-old Massachusetts farmhouse. In the house, in the studio and on walks in the woods, they are constant companions.

Doug Ramsey's latest book is a novel, Poodie James.
His Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond won an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award.
He blogs about jazz and other matters on Rifftides at

Recorded June 6 & 7, 2011 at Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY
Engineered and mastered by Mike Marciano
Produced by Francois Zalacain.
Paintings by Meredith d'Ambrosio
Graphic design by Christopher Drukker
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