Denise Donatelli@Vitello’s 10.13.12

Written by By George W. Harris

When I lived in Italy, I was always fascinated by the fact that all of the pasta dishes that I ate consisted of relatively simple fare: a basic tomato sauce, some basil, a dash of pepper and salt, and that was it. Never did I have a meal with some fancy multi-ingredient spaghetti sauce. The revelation came when I asked one of the cooks why he used such basic materials. His reply was simple but wise: “We trust our ingredients.”

That thought permeated my mind as I took in Denise Donatelli’s show at Vitello’s on this warm fall evening. Not given to vocal gymnastics, histrionics or sighs and groans, she demonstrated why her previous album was nominated for a Grammy, and her most recent release Soul Shadows is just as deserving by sticking to the basics that make for a truly worthwhile vocalist. Teamed up with the adroit band that was on her latest release, Geoffrey Keezer/p, Peter Sprague/g, Walter Rodriguez/dr and Carlos del Puerto/b (who opened with hiply elastic “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise”), Ms Donatelli graciously delivered clearly enunciated versions of “When Lights Are Low” with a mature and confident allure. Brazilian and Latin material such as “Sail” and “Soul Shadows” spotlighted her impeccable sense of timing. Most intriguing was her venture into more contemporary songwriters, with Susan Marder providing harmonies on the more folkie material like the enveloping “Ocean” and “Know Better.”  Donatelli’s understated command of the gist of a song was most evident on her duet with pianist Keezer (who arranged most of the fascinating charts) on a take of “Too Late Now” that can only be rendered by someone who’s lived it. Closing with a playful “I Wish I Were In Love Again,” Donatelli and company gave the packed house at Vitello’s a taste of an old fashioned home made meal, allowing the basic mix of tone, clarity, timing and heart create a sumptuous feast of a musical meal.