Roseanna Vitro/Laurel Masse | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Roseanna Vitro/Laurel Masse 

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The matter of what actually constitutes a jazz vocalist has sparked serious debate since the swing era. Do they have to improvise? (No.) Do they have to sing "jazz tunes"? (No.) Does Frank Sinatra count? (Almost, sometimes.) This weekend's appearances by Laurel Masse and Roseanna Vitro may not resolve the issue, but you may be enjoying yourself too much to notice. Laurel Masse, who left her adopted hometown of Chicago just a few years ago, has resisted scat soloing (a tantalizing option given her velvet-to-clarion five-octave range); instead, the fireworks come courtesy of sprightly pop classics, jazz standards (with jaw-busting lyrics set to previously recorded instrumental solos), and wittily arranged show tunes. She also lavishes attention on such seemingly forgotten subtleties as the hidden nuance of a well-trod lyric, while her impeccable phrasing gives each note its proper weight and tension; and at any tempo, she swings like most people breathe. Roseanna Vitro, a transplanted Texan, hasn't sung in Chicago for ten years. Vitro gravitates toward more extroverted versions of more modern tunes, from jazz to contemporary pop. She has a strong, slicing, no-nonsense voice and uses it to convey plenty of energy: sailing into something bluesy and up-tempo, she sounds as if she could physically move the stage; when she ratchets down for something slow and sultry, she reroutes that vivacity into a hothouse sensuality. She also essays the occasional scat solo, and you'll be glad she does. Vitro: Tonight, 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 878-5552. Sunday, Pops for Champagne, 2934 N. Sheffield; 472-1000. Masse: Saturday, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 525-2508.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Schoenfield.

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