Tucked away below the Empire Plaza and off of Madison Avenue on Grand Street in Albany is the lovely Café Capriccio: a culinary landmark to many a food aficionado because of its fabulous award-winning Italian menu. But to a few others Café Capriccio is known for something else: Jazz!
On many a recent Friday evening, the cozy atmosphere of the cafe’s comfortable bar becomes an intimate jazz-club with the vocal stylings of the wonderful Julia Donnaruma.
Backed by the stellar duo of guitar-wizard George Muscatello (who has just released his mindboggling debut solo album, “Angel Dust”) and uber-bassist Michael Bisio (Matthew Shipp Trio), Donnaruma’s light and airy voice is more Blossom Dearie than Anita O’Day. But that has more to do with the venue than her talents because this fashion-model-gorgeous songbird can belt it out with the best of them in any another setting.
Singing songs that ran the gamut of the jazz cannon, Donnaruma’s vocal interpretations of tried-and-true chestnuts became something more than just another evening of standards. “The Shadow of Your Smile” and “Night and Day,” for example, became vehicles for all three musicians to showcase their spectacular individual and collective talents during two, generous, hour-long sets.
In the spirit of a traditional jazz trio, Donnaruma, Muscatello and Bisio would start together and then exchange solos one after another throughout any song. Donnaruma’s voice would begin to flow over the accompaniment and hand the baton to Muscatello’s lyrical guitar lines, which would propel the tune until Bisio’s passionate, bottom-end bass would pick up the solo. Eventually the trio would hit the final stretch, all three crossing the finish line together with a smile to the audience’s applause.
Bisio says of working with Donnaruma, “Julia’s phrasing embodies the best of the past, present, and future. I hear Ms.’s Holiday, Washington, Jones, Barber, Wilson and always Julia Donnaruma.”
After ending the evening with a rhythmic version of “Route 66” full of impassioned solos, you knew you had experienced something special when nearly all the audience members got up to congratulate the performers.
Check out the JD3 at Cafe Capriccio every Friday in July for yourself!
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk