Neon Jazz Interview
April 21, 2022
All About Jazz
C. Michael Bailey
February 17, 2018
Sleek and sophisticated, Jackie Messina's Necessary Arrangements proves a thoughtfully considered collection of standards, to be sure, but not the frontline warhorses one might expect. In addition to an inventive repertoire, vocalist Messina opts for a pared-down band with only a harmonica as a front solo instrument augmenting the classic piano trio. This format allows Messina's superb mezzo voice to be properly heard within the confines of these smartly selected songs. The project greatly benefits from the inclusion of pianist Bruce Barth, whose expansive piano palette provides Messina's deft arrangements a solid grounding.
This recording benefits from the spare simple, but elegant instrumental support. Cliff Barbaro's drumming is wonderfully understated, never getting in the way of the vocalist and Will Galison's harmonica as the sole melody and solo instrument adds a focus to the grace and thoughtfulness that went into this collection. The repertoire is simply a celebration with the inclusion of "Inch Worm," "I Feel Pretty," and "Surrey with the Fringe on Top," all still fresh and not historically interpreted to death. The presentation of these minor standards can only be termed, "pristine" and "crystalline" as reflected in Messina's excellent delivery and musical arrangements. Good show, Jackie Messina...here's to many more!
August 5, 2022
The jazz vocalist Jackie Messina pays tribute to the late jazz pianist Enos Payne with this set of songs that stem from their 5 year musical relationship, and brings help from Bruce Barth (piano), Will Galison (harmonica), Paul Beaudry (bass), Ed Howard (bass) and Cliff Barbaro (drums).
The warm listen leads with the playful scatting of “Inchworm”, where Beaudry’s lively bass complements the bouncy spirit, and “I Feel Pretty” follows with a charming take on the classic that recruits Howard’s bass and Barth’s agile piano.
Approaching the middle, “Little B’s Poem” benefits much from the flowing keys and emotive harmonica as much beauty enters, while “I Believe In You” bops and shakes with a timeless jazz energy that you could and should dance to.
Deeper still, “Alfie”, a Burt Bacharach tune, puts Messina’s diverse pipes on display in the cautious album highlight, and “Show Me” finishes the listen with Barbaro’s drums and Beaudry’s clever bass interacting with much melody
A listen that isn’t short on solos or swingin’ fun, Messina and company also inject a couple ballads, and there’s even a poetic quality present across the entirety of the fantastic record.
George W. Harris
July 7, 2022
Vocalist Jackie Messina leads an adroit team of Bruce Barth/p, Will Galison/harm, Paul Beaudry-Ed Howard/b and Cliff Barbaro/dr through some clever and contemporary reads of standards and clever covers. Her honey’d voice is delicate as she swoons with Barth on the deft duet of “Quiet Now” and agonizes through the tango’d take of “I’m A Fool To Want You” with haunting and spartan drummerless support. Chromatic harmonica man Will Galison is a good call on the scene, adding blues hues to “Easy Street” and intimately sighing with Messina on “Little B’s Poem”. Messina softly sambas through “Slow, Hot Wind” and cozies up to you on “Show Me”. Sophisticated lady.
Originally a self-released CD about a decade ago, the perhaps necessary arrangement to engage a publicist has resulted in Necessary Arrangements by songstress Jackie Messina being reissued. (It was not previously reviewed here.) It has a baker's dozen of mostly familiar items given energized, feel-good treatments.
The arrangements are mostly by the singer, except for three souvenirs of input provided by the late Enos Payne, whose jazz workshop some years ago gave her guidance and inspiration. His charts are for West Side Story's "I Feel Pretty," with its time signature changed to gain a intriguingly fresh, fleet flow; "Wild Is the Wind," which becomes, pardon the pun, breezier as it sheds its usual grandeur; and a blithe "I Believe in You," from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying with music and lyric by Frank Loesser.
Bouncing and swinging rather than moving with its old slow-mo measured crawl, "Inchworm" is another Loesser piece (introduced in the film Hans Christian Andersen). Generally, genial and jazzy joyrides prevail. Hop aboard Jackie Messina's "Surrey with the Fringe on Top" and the pace will ebb and flow amiably along the Oklahoma! roads. "Show Me" doesn't show its in-context fiery frustration–that My Fair Lady demand is here more of a lower-flame, lower-pressure plea that suggests lower expectations.
Five musicians are on hand. Splendidly nimble pianist Bruce Barth anchors the muscular but not overwhelming accompaniment, with flavorful excursions from Will Galison's harmonica. Cliff Barbaro is the understated drummer, while Paul Beaudry and Ed Howard share bass duties. Laidback, tasteful playing and Jackie Messina's seeming serenity in her phrasing of lyrics and her creamy vocalese passages work against the potential for anguish and despair in "I'm a Fool to Want You" or languor and sultriness that might be in the air for "Slow, Hot Wind."
The New York City singer has a sunny sound and unfussy manner, with noticeably crisp diction so no lyric is unheard, obscured, or slurred. There's a smile in her voice.