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Into the depths of feelings

By Rainer Kellmayer for Esslinger Zeitung

With her rhythm group, the Italian jazz singer Chiara Pancaldi inspired audiences at the first concert of the season in the Esslinger Jazzkeller with her great voice, intense expression, sensitive tone coloration and depth of feeling.

With the Italian singer Chiara Pancaldi, the Esslingen Jazzkeller crew presented a special musical treat at the start of the year. Since Pancaldi left the university in her hometown of Bologna in 2012 with a master’s degree in jazz, she has been touring across Europe: she has made guest appearances in major jazz clubs between London, Paris and Rome, can be heard regularly at festivals and has released a number of highly acclaimed recordings recorded. Accompanied by her rhythm group, Chiara Pancaldi now also convinced the Jazzkeller audience with her vocal finesse. And she was far more than just a replacement for Grégoire Maret and Edmar Castañeda, who were supposed to open the new concert season at the Jazzkeller but had to cancel their performance.

In the opening “A Song of Life” Pancaldi’s voice filled the jazz cellar first in a sensitive piano with an ingratiatingly vibrating but sustainable voice. Then the intensity of the expression increased, taking on dynamics Auffahrt auf, the pleasant timbre and a clear vocal line drawing gave the whole contour. In the instrumental intermezzi, the pianist Vincent Bourgeyx shone with crystal-clear key movements, Darryl Hall plucked his bass unerringly and fervently, while drummer Roberto Pistolesi not only provided a restlessly pulsating drive, but also repeatedly surprised with crisp percussive actions. The quartet then hit softer tones in Pancaldi’s beautiful ballad “Our Time”. After a dreamy, impressionistically colored piano introduction, the singer drew exciting melody threads over a subtle instrumental background, smoothly formed and refined with sparing vibrato.

Previously, they had heard “Better to grow” in the best swing manner – an example of the stylistic range and joy of making music of the team around Chiara Pancaldi. The pianist hammered out varied chord sequences from the grand piano, Darryl Hall descended deep into the cellar of tones on the fretboard and Roberto Pistolesi fired up the drums. Sometimes it was almost too much of a good thing, because the leading vocals were pushed a bit into the background by the impetuous instrumental actions. But Pancaldi knew how to defend himself, pulled out all the stops, increased the phone number and mutated into a rock tube in places. However, the qualities of her voice lie in the rather quiet registers, in which she was able to live out controlled voice leading, sensitive tone coloration and depth of feeling in equal measure. This was particularly impressive in Pancaldi’s wonderful song “Precious”, in which the full beauty of the voice unfolded over a subtle piano accompaniment: from almost breathy vocalises to fully blossoming tone sequences, from a calm narrative tone to clearly declaimed phrases. The singer underscored the text with subtle yet appropriate gestures: music and body language grew into one.

The dramaturgy of the program was clever and coherent. Melodic elements alternated with fiery hussar rides, stylistic contrasts provided the necessary spice. And with a mixture of ballads, groovy swing numbers, echoes of scat singing and reminiscences of Latin and soul, Pancaldi and her band increased the excitement to the sparkling final climax with Antonio Carlos Jobim’s hit “Vivo Sonhando”.