THE SCORECLASSICAL, JAZZ, & AVANT
by Christopher DeLaurenti, The
Greta Matassa was dazzling at the recent Ballard Jazz Walk.
She did what few singers dare to do--let the audience call the tunes.
I walked in just as Matassa scatted with aplomb on "How High the
Moon," raining serpentine ribbons of nonsense syllables that would
have made the legendary Ella Fitzgerald proud. After a slow, succulent
"Lush Life," Matassa plunged into Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Wave,"
faultlessly navigating the treacherous melodic shoals of that tricky
bossa nova classic.
The audience groaned when someone called out the cornball "Moon
River," but Matassa smiled, arched her eyebrow, and declared, "I'll
change your mind." She did, molding mawkish lyrics into a melancholy
missive. Morphing her voice to channel Ella Fitzgerald, Matassa then
brought down the house with a dead-on take of Ella's 1938 hit "A-Tisket,
Unlike most other singers I hear, Matassa has an enormous vocal flexibility
that ranges from a big-boned, brawny set of pipes built to belt the
blues to a lithe, flutelike voice capable of peeling off notes at high
speed. More impressively, Matassa has a highly refined sense of how
a song should be sung, keenly choosing the right phrasing, dynamics,
Ella and Billie is Matassa's homage to Ella Fitzgerald, who fused peerless
technique with swing, and to Billie Holiday, who brought the blues back
into jazz. Matassa explains, "Everything I've learned about singing
comes from listening to Billie's and Ella's records." Along with
tunes made famous by Ella and Billie, Matassa shares biographical tidbits
and anecdotes about their lives. Don't miss this tribute to two jazz
legends by one of the few vocalists around who really delivers the goods.