H o m e

Dancing With Johnny Reviews

Dancing with Johnny  on Jazz Journalist Marcia Hillman's
Top 10 List  Jazz Vocal CD's 2010- 

"The teaming of Ciofalo’s voice and Mercer’s lyrics
has produced a great match." ALLABOUT JAZZNY

ALLABOUTJAZZ-NEW YORK | December 2010 29
by Marcia Hillman
Johnny Mercer is the name on vocalist Linda Ciofalo’s dance card as she sings her way through 13 of the songwriter/lyricist’s songs on her current CD. The
tunes are all familiar but are given fresh and contemporary treatment - designed (according to the liner notes) to “personalize the music with a rhythm developed from phrasing Mercer’s lyrics.” The result is an album that is both listenable and danceable. Providing the music for Ciofalo’s vocalizing is a stellar group: pianist John Di Martino, bassist John Benitez, drummer Ernesto Simpson, percussionist Little Johnny Rivero, guitarists Paul Meyers (nylon string) and Chieli Minucci (electric), Joel Frahm on saxes and Bryan Lynch on trumpet. The teaming of Ciofalo’s voice and Mercer’s lyrics has produced a great match. Mercer’s flow of words and images goes well with Ciofalo’s lyric-driven approach. Mercer’s “Tangerine” (a big band hit in its first incarnation) is served up with a little salsa coming up bright with Lynch’s trumpet coloring (he also highlights the “Early Autumn” track with his sensitive phrasing). Most of the rhythms on the album are on the Latin side - samba, mambo, cha cha and bossa. However, they are interspersed with other rhythmical treatments which add to the pacing. Ciofalo delivers “Skylark” as a blues featuring guitar effects by Minucci; “Moon River” is done dreamily with a fitting guitar solo by Meyers and Ciofalo sings “One For My Baby” as the torchiest standard ever written. Di Martino’s piano is evident on every track with tasteful fills and solid solos. Frahm lends his magic to most of the tracks, especially in “I’m Old Fashioned” where he adds to the sweetness of Ciofalo’s vocal. But foremost this is a vocalist’s CD and Ciofalo has widened her repertoire with Mercer selections delivered with care, sensitivity and warmth - especially in the lower range of her voice. She continues to display her storytelling skills in a most listenable and smooth manner. And if you are going to choose a dance partner, Mercer is a good bet. Keep on dancing, Linda!

"Ciofalo interprets Mercer beautifully, capturing the joy and irony he intended in "Tangerine," the ache in "Early Autumn" the tenderness of "I Remember You" and—throughout—the essences of 13 Mercer songs. "

Recent Listening: Linda Ciofalo - Rifftides

JazzTimes Sept 2010
"Sizzling(...)soothing(...) scorching(....)
"Dancing with Johnny" is a lovely, inventive coda to Mercer's centenary"


Jazz Reviews: Dancing With Johnny
Linda Ciofalo — By Christopher Loudon — Jazz Articles

" ...singer Linda Ciofalo presents the words of Johnny Mercer as if revealing their meaning for the first time." JazzPolice

Jazz Police - Linda Ciofalo, “Dancing With Johnny” (2010, Lucky Jazz)

"Sassy, Salty and Sultry"- San Francisco Chronicle pick list
"Moody, magical, musical classic-this wonderful 13 song Johnny Mercer tribute is worth the wait.
Creatively, Linda and her exceptional pianist John Di Martino have arranged and produced a
major work of art." ~ In Tune International

I have been waiting to write about Linda since my column in IT#142 and IT#193. This wonderful 13 song Johny Mercer tribute is worth the wait. She just doesn't sing the wondrous lyrics,she understands them. Creatively Linda and her exceptional pianist John Di Martino have arranged and produced a major work of art.
She begins with a banging hard driving jazz treatment of "Tangerine"(Schertzinger). What a great opening for this all standards programme. Her concluding notes here are simply amazing -- a dazzling delight. Her version of "I'm Old fashioned" (Kern) is startling. Linda musically sings this to the hilt. "That Old Black Magic" (Arlen) is made brand spanking new here. Her speedy vocal exhibits her uncanny way with this all too performed classic. She's breezy,loose and comfortable with herself and the wisely chosen material.
Her  "Early Autumn" (Burns/Herman) deliciously drives home all the right notes. This moody,magical,musical classic remains just that. Her conclusion is sublime vocal purity. " P.S. I Love You" (Jenkins) is starling. Linda verse and all, captures the age -old message of loneliness in a most passionate and personal way.
"Skylark" (Carmichael) is performed almost at a standstill. There's an up-tempo "Day In Day Out" (Bloom) which is dazzling. Listen for  her feel good conclusion. It's most rewarding. Observe her always well placed notes. Linda is a singer to really keep your eyes on.
Dan Singer


Jazz Station - Arnaldo DeSouteiro's Blog: Linda Ciofalo's new CD, a tribute to Johnny Mercer, comes out today
Vocal CD of the Month
Linda Ciofalo: "Dancing with Johnny" (Lucky Jazz) 2010

Rating: *****
A very pleasant surprise, full of surprises thanks to the creative arrangements (by pianist John DiMartino and Linda herself) and, of course, the lovely vocal & instrumental performances.
On this self-produced release, Ciofalo is backed by Grammy winner - and a current member of the CTI All Stars 2010 Band - Brian Lynch on trumpet, John DiMartino (piano), John Benitez (bass), Ernesto Simpson (drums), Little Johnny Rivero (percussion), Paul Meyers (nylon string guitar), Chieli Minucci (electric guitar) and Joel Frahm (tenor & soprano saxophones).

A Johnny Mercer Songbook -- showcasing the lyricist's genius with such diverse partners as Victor Schertzinger, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, Henry Mancini, Robert Emmett Dolan, Gordon Jenkins, Ralph Burns, Woody Herman & Rube Bloom -- couldn't go wrong in terms of repertoire, but what makes this CD really so special is the fresh appeal of each & every track, with Linda Ciofalo's bell-clear beautiful voice shining throughout the 52-minute program of 13 tunes, all recorded in a single session, on October 20, 2009 in NY.

My personal favorite tracks are the exciting latin-tinged scores of "Tangerine" (on which the intoxicating percussion work of Little Johnny Rivero, combining congas & timbales, sounds like a meeting of Mongo Santamaria with Tito Puente) and "That Old Black Magic," both also featuring Lynch (undoubtedly one of the Top 5 trumpeters in the contemporary jazz scene) and Frahm.

But there are many other highlights, such as the Diana Krall-like sensual approach to "Talk To Me Baby" (done as a slow bossa nova, with Paul Meyers, a veteran of Thiago de Mello's Amazon band, playing acoustic guitar a la Joao Gilberto) and the up-tempo bossa take of "Day In, Day Out," again embellished by Meyers' syncopated guitar beat.

The magnificent "Early Autumn" becomes a quasi-bolero, "Skylark" receives a bluesy feel with Minucci evoking memories of the late Eric Gale, and "P.S. I Love You" (a song that Diana Krall has been singing on her current "Quiet Nights" tour and plans to record on her next album) appears here with Rivero adding bongos to add a soft latin spice to this sumptuous Gordon Jenkins ballad. Pure delight!
"A return to the romance and penetrating lyricism of a bygone era, refreshed by modern, Latin-flavored arrangements, and sung by a singer with deep respect for the material. " JazzChicago.net
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ancing with JohnnyLinda Ciofalo - "Dancing With Johnny"
(Lucky Jazz Music)
As one of the greatest lyricists in American music history, Johnny Mercer's work is familiar to most. Songs like "I'm Old Fashioned," "That Old Black Magic," "Skylark," "The Days of Wine and Roses," Moon River" and "Come Rain and Come Shine" are oft-covered, and it is rare to find a jazz artist who doesn't include a Mercer number in their repertoire. A vocalist himself, Mercer's lyrics especially found favor with jazz vocalists like Chet Baker and Frank Sinatra, because, as vocalist Linda Ciofalo explains, of their "dancing" quality and attention to the craft of painting a picture and telling a story. That said, tribute albums to Mercer are not as prevalent (one by Rosemary Clooney comes to mind) - perhaps because his "old-fashioned" style has somewhat fallen out of favor, or maybe because he worked with some many different composers - including Henry Mancini, Jerome Kern, Hoagy Carmichael, Woody Herman, Harold Arlen and many more across a range of musical directions. But the strength of his songbook is such that the songs are timeless, and Ciofalo - following her "sun"-themed release Sun-Set (see our review here) - has returned to her early love of Mercer's melodies in presenting this all-Mercer recording. Arranged by the smooth-voiced Ciofalo and pianist John DiMartino, the album includes the aforementioned Mercer gems, as well as "Tangerine," "Early Autumn," "Day In Day Out," "One for My Baby( And One More for the Road)," as well as lesser-known numbers culled from Mercer's more than 1,700 songs - including "Talk to Me Baby," "P.S. I Love You" and "I Remember You." With a superb band backing her, including first rate saxophonist Joel Frahm, bassist John Benitez, drummer Ernesto Simpson, nylon-string guitarist Paul Meyers and percussionist Little Johnny Rivero, along with trumpeter extraordinaire Brian Lynch on several tunes - the direction taken is often an intriguing Latin one. For example, the often sultry "Tangerine" is given a full-blooded Afro-Cuban treatment highlighted by Ciofalo's understated delivery and Lynch's passionate trumpet solo. Hard to believe old chestnuts like "I'm Old Fashioned" and "Days of Wine and Roses" can be done again and be compelling, yet Ciofalo and DiMartino deserve credit for their fresh takes that breath life into these classics. Frahm, as always, is excellent throughout, while the rhythm section deserves credit for their sensitivity and support of their vocalist. And it is hard to not be moved by Ciofalo's heartfelt way with Mercer's words, especially on less-heard deep cuts "Talk to Me Baby" and "P.S. I Love You." A return to the romance and penetrating lyricism of a bygone era, refreshed by modern, Latin-flavored arrangements, and sung by a singer with deep respect for the material.

" Ciofalo captures the musical and lyrical spirit of each song.. She is assertive and understated simultaneously" Jersey Jazz
Jersey Jazz September 2010
by Joe Lang
Dancing with Johnny (Lucky Jazz Music – 202) is vocalist LINDA CIOFALO’s Latin tinged salute to the Johnny Mercer songbook.  When choosing from among the many great songs that have lyrics by Mercer, the choices are so myriad that I am sure each performer who undertakes a project like this is constantly changing their minds until finally having to make some choices.  Ciofalo has chosen well, settling on what for her is a lucky 13 selections.  The songs are “Tangerine,” “Talk to Me Baby,” “I’m Old Fashioned,” “The Days of Wine and Roses,” “That Old Black Magic,” “Early Autumn,” “P.S. I Love You,” “Skylark,” “Day In-Day Out,” “Moon River,” “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road),” “I Remember You” and “Come Rain or Come Shine.”  She and pianist John di Martino worked out the arrangements for a floating cast of players that includes di Martino, bassist John Benitez, drummer Ernesto Simpson, percussionist Johnny Rodriguez, trumpeter Brian Lynch, saxophonist Joel Frahm and guitarists Paul Myers and Chieli Minucci.  Ciofalo captures the musical and lyrical spirit of each song nicely.  She is assertive and understated simultaneously, and the arrangements are perfectly set to enable this to happen.  Although he is only on three tracks, Lynch’s trumpet contributions are among the most lingering memories I had after first listening to the album.  Mercer would surely have been pleased with what Ciofalo and her guys have achieved on Dancing with Johnny.  He might even have been inclined to cut a rug or two.  (www.lindaciofalo.com)
Hi Linda,

Your wonderful tribute to Johnny arrived after our meeting on Monday night. It came in either Tues. or Wed. and since then my week was wild. I just had time to listen to your heartfelt tribute to Johnny. What impressed me the most was the loving caress you gave his lyrics. Often times the musicians overpower the singer and the words. You and your guys have a perfect blending of the two. For me it is especially true in P.S. I Love You. Congratulations on the new album.

I will be sure the cd is placed in the Mercer Family Archives at Armstrong Atlantic State University and I will share it with the membership at an upcoming meeting of Friends of Johnny Mercer, Inc.

Mercerly yours,

Dianne S. Thurman
Chairperson: Johnny Mercer Centennial
Mayor Johnson’s Steering Committee