by Thomas Conrad
Today, even though the worldwide jazz art form is vibrant, too many musicians record before they have something significant to say. Irene Jalenti is not one of them.
She was born in 1980 in Terni, Italy but was educated in the United States. She has a bachelor’s degree from Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and a master’s from Howard University in Washington, D.C. She has been active on the jazz scene of “the DMV” (the Distric, Maryland and Virginia) for over a decade. But she waited to make a record until she felt she was ready. The wait is over.
Dawn announces the arrival of a distinctive, fully formed singer.
Jalenti has a deep, complex, compelling voice and the emotional authenticity that only comes with life experience. She is well supported here by her working DMV rhythm section (pianist Alan Blackman, bassist Jeff Reed, drummer Eric Kennedy). Three impact players make appearances as guests: trumpeter Sean Jones, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, and guitarist Cristian Perez.
Jalenti writes some of her own song and composes musical settings for poems. (“Alma Desnuda”, by the Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni, is pure gliding grace.) But the best moments on Dawn are songs you thought you knew until you hear Jalenti sing them. Her dark voice reveals unsuspected nuances in familiar material. “Let It Be” is a newly triumphant testament. When Jalenti proclaims, “There will be an answer!” you believe her. “How Deep Is the Ocean?” is similarly personal and dramatic; her interpretation turns the song’s rhetorical questions into a powerful declarative ceremony. “Beautiful Love” is sheer exhilaration. Jalenti rephrases it into lines or irregular length. Then, with overdubs of herself, she lavishes upon it a choir of scatting voices. Then Sean Jones flies away with it.
Now that Irene Jalenti has started making records, let’s hope she won’t stop.
by Michael Bailey
Baltimore-based Italian singer Irene Jalenti arrives with her debut recording, Dawn, as a fully developed artist with complete command of her art. Vocalist, composer, and arranger, Jalenti possesses an embarrassment of talent, her greatest being her crepuscular alto voice. Deep and complex, her instrument is well suited to ballads with which she populates Dawn. Particularly fine are Jalenti's performances of the non-English pieces: the Jalenti composition "Alma Desnuda'' (set from a poem by Alfonsina Storni) and the older and more inspired "Carinhoso." Both exude the humid mood of more southern climes, languid and easy. "You, The Night, and The Music" is given an intense samba treatment, propelled by pianist Alan Blackman. Using an acoustic rhythm section augmented with guitar, trumpet/flugelhorn, and vibraphone, Jalenti positions herself in the center of the music, creating sonics that engulf the listener in warmth and rhythm.
RICH VOICES… Irene Jalenti: Dawn
by George W. Harris
I grew up listening to Greek folk music, and Italian Irene Jalenti’s voice reminds me of those earthy and husky toned singers. She’s teamed up with Alan Blackman/p, Jeff Reed/b, Eric Kennedy/dr and guests Sean Jones/tp, Warren Wolf/vib and Cristian Perez/g on luscious and soulful reads. She draws you into her world of warm nights in the piazza on the gentle take of “Beautiful Love” with mixes gospel and R&B during an earnest read of “Let It Be”. Jones’ horns adds to the fluidity of Jalenti’s toying with the dynamics of “You and the Night and the Music” while Blackman adds mystery to the misty night of “Walking In The Air” . A closing duet with Wolf on “Dawn” is drop dead gorgeous, and a teaming with Perez has her like good with nylons on the crystalline “Alma Desnuda” and dreamy “Carinhoso”. Sing to me, Cara mia!
One of the good things to come out of the pandemic is it gave this Italian born, DC denizen the gumption to grab the reins and make her long over due solo debut. With a smart mix of songs from originals to modern chestnuts and an eclectic round of geographic genre splicing, Jalenti shows her familial musical roots can be passed down through the generations. A lively set full of nice surprises, this is the face of modern jazz vocal that keeps its roots in tradition. Well done.