Charito “American Gold Standards” (CT music 2016)

Charito – vocal

Tamir Hendelman – piano

John Clayton – bass

Jeff Hamilton — drums

Lori Bell – flute

Gilbert Castellanos – trumpet

Graham Dechter – guitar

Rickey Woodard – tenor sax


Charito has many excellent recordings, but this is her best. Or, best yet. As the most consistently artistic, entertaining and impressive jazz singer in Tokyo, Charito has the depth of experience, and depth of emotion, to work with this top-notch trio. The CD is both a work in itself, and a record of the power so evident in her live shows.

Of course, with Hendelman, Clayton and Hamilton on board, not to mention the great melody players, energy and taste would stay at a peak, but what’s most interesting about the CD is how well Hendleman’s arrangements fit Charito. Each of these well-known songs gets an interesting re-think arrangement-wise, and a beautiful re-play vocal-wise.

“I’ve Got the World on a String” is the perfect opener. It swings hard and Charito’s voice rises to the level of that classic, as it does on “Dearly Beloved,” the next song. On both tunes, Charito’s voice flies over the swinging sound, riding the beat and leaning into the turns of the songs.

“Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry” is where Charito’s delicacy of phrasing wraps you in her own special intimacy. It’s slow, sultry and packed with the kind of honest, direct expression she has developed over her career. Her voice is filled with plaintive subtleties, but strong, round phrasing, too. The recording puts her vocal artistry front and center, where it should be.

Other tunes are wilder. On the refrain of “Do It Again,” she enwraps you in suggestive desire, (the mind calls out “Yes,” in response to each “do it again”). Woodard’s sax answers Charito’s voice with wonderful phrases and responses. Of course, Clayton and Hamilton keep things locked down tight, having played with so many great female vocalists.

“Cheek to Cheek” is fun, vibrant and bouncy, with great scatting, and nice shifts of key, rhythm and piano. “Blues in the Night” is packed with subtle phrasing, joyous tremolo and Charito’s long notes that play back and forth with Castellanos’ trumpet and Woodard’s sax. Charito’s scat phrases bring the song to a high burn. Her Portuguese on Jobim’s “Dreamer” is strikingly good. On “The Man I Love,” delivered with care and finesse, the deep bass parts counterpoint her voice.

One of the best parts of the recording is how well Charito’s voice is recorded. You can almost see each note, so it’s easy to envision how each note comes from the deepest part of her technique and from her self. This is a recording that is not in a hurry to change the standards around, but does change them, naturally, with each of Hendelman’s fascinating arrangements blending wonderfully with Charito’s voice. This great vocal recording shows just how lucky Tokyo is to have Charito live here for so long.

(April 14, 2017)

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Michael Pronko

1-5-17 Higashi-cho
Koganei, Tokyo
184-0011 JAPAN
Phone/Fax: 0423-87-7066

Michael Pronko
Phone/Fax: 042-387-7066