There is something to be said about an artist who finds his calling late in life. The erudition that comes from such a state of mind can often spark a very powerful magic in his or her work. Of course you can always tell when the impulse to adorn the black dots on a musical score sheet has been lurking in such a heart. Such is the work of Tom Giacabetti on Tender Heart. Make no mistake, Giacabetti’s inspiration may have been grounded in the vivid dreams that he must surely have lived with, but none of that would have mattered were it not for his insane technical skill on the guitar nor, for that matter, would this record have been half the artistic achievement it is without his lyricist and producer, the guitarist Melissa Gilstrap.
Every word and line by Gilstrap, and every chord and phrase you will hear from Giacabetti, as well as the vocalists and other instrumentalists on this disc has a very special, almost achingly poignant significance as Giacabetti passed away a mere two months after the recording. The connotation of the album title, Tender Heart, and the heat of the emotions of the songs themselves, seems so close that all of this sears the senses. From the unbearable lump in the throat of ‘This Too Shall Pass’, built up by Denise King’s impassioned vocals to the exquisite lyricism of Paul Jost’s airy, floating delivery on ‘Tender Heart’ to the masterful expression and dynamics of Tom Giacabetti on ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’, it seems like the music flows with diaphanous, silken beauty. There is a brightness to the recording throughout, and it certainly enhances the joy of listening to Giacabetti’s and Gilstrap’s guitars. Add to all this saxophonist Larry McKenna’s gloriously evocative musicianship on ‘Gone’ and ‘Japama’ and you have something to cry out with joy for at almost every turn.
In spite of the dazzling versatility of the instrumentalists on the album this is after all a vocal album as well and the four singers on the disc are absolutely flawless. Paul Jost’s two songs are utterly natural and idiomatic, the words in ‘Tender Heart’ sitting unobtrusively on phrases that are beautifully turned; Joanna Pascale’s ‘Fantasy of You and Me in Love’ is stunning; matched by a control of dynamics (by Tom Giacabetti) that emphasises the sheer melodic beauty of that song. Denise King’s star turn is unforgettable And Sharon Sable’s breathtaking vocals on ‘I Will Always’ is literally heart-stopping. When will such beguiling performances as these be properly recognised? Indeed, when will music so perfect in melodic pleasure and grace receive its just deserts? These are some thoughts that boggle the mind.
Track List: Batidiha; Fantasy of You and Me in Love; Gone; Missisamba; A Meadow Far Away; Caitlin’s Lullaby; Japama; This Too Shall Pass; Bad Hair Day; Her Spanish Heart; Tender Heart; When You Wish Upon a Star; I Will Always; Like the Sky.
Personnel: Denise King, Joanna Pascale, Sharon Sable, Paul Jost: vocalists; Larry McKenna: tenor saxophone; Tom Giacabetti: guitar; Mike Quaile: guitar; Craig Thomas: bass; Joe Nero: drums & percussion; Melissa Gilstrap: vocals & guitar.