Italian-born, London-based Renzo Murrone is a welcome addition to the list of male jazz vocalists, thanks to his beautiful debut, Out Of This World. It's a collection of original songs and covers that mixes styles and genres with great success; Murrone's vocal range is impressive and he has the crucial ability to connect emotionally with the mood of the songs.
Murrone's own compositions lean towards the smooth, soul-jazz end of the spectrum: pretty, melodic and romantic but not yet blessed with the distinctiveness they need to become standards. "Moonglade" is the most impressive, a silky, slow love song with some wonderfully economical but effective piano from Alex Stanford, although drummer Marius Rodrigues' use of cymbals is overpowering at times.
"Anda La Vida," co-written with Stanford, is more ambitious, the three-piece string section adding atmosphere, while Murrone's vocals have a more operatic edge than they do on most of the songs. "Higher" is a soulful blues with a laidback feel, which benefits from Stanford's fine keyboard solo.
It's Murrone's arrangements of standards that impress the most. Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" is given a new feel, thanks to Murrone and Stanford's original arrangement, with Murrone's vocal moving elegantly between hushed romance and operatic drama—perhaps a little too dramatic—plus some scat.
Murrone sings Bruno Brighetti and Bruno Martino's "Estaté" in its original Italian, reveling in the richness of its lyrics. The strings appear again and are key to the arrangement's late-night, romantic feel. Rodrigues' brush work propels the tune, and Charlotte Glasson gives added sophistication on tenor sax. The traditional English folk song "Scarborough Fair" is given a soft and danceable reggae beat, with Rodrigues and excellent electric bassist Matheus Nova leading the way and Glasson contributing another warm tenor solo.
Tom Waits' "Invitation to the Blues" really swings. Waits has rapidly become one of the most popular songwriters with jazz singers, and Murrone's version of this great number is one of the finest jazz covers of a Waits song yet, which says much for Murrone's talent as an interpreter. The song begins with the scratchy sound of an old vinyl album, and then the band kicks in with its most inspired performance. Rodrigues uses brushes to deliver a shuffle beat, while Herbie Flowers— a stalwart of the British music scene responsible for the iconic bass line on Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side"—sets the pace with a funky line. Fulvio Sigurta intersperses some wailing trumpet melodies, while Stanford adds piano and keyboard with subtlety, as Murrone tops everything off with a fine vocal performance.
The musicians on Out Of This World are outstanding. The singer has brought together a band of great empathy and talent, while his technically strong and emotionally expressive voice should soon establish him on the scene. Out Of This World promises Murrone a bright future in jazz.