The moment, V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N, the first track of Jenna Esposito’s new CD, To Connie, With Love starts to play, it’s obvious that the listener is in for a good time. The CD is a live recording of Esposito’s salute to Connie Francis which has been playing the Metropolitan Room (where this was recorded) and other venues to recent acclaim.
I’ve always admitted that my knowledge of pop-music (rather than show music) is a bit sketchy after the Andrews Sisters.* So the wealth of the Connie Francis songbook had been off my radar. It says something about how well-known Francis’s legacy is when although I only recognized about a quarter of the titles on the CD, most of the songs were familiar when I heard them.
A recording like this poses the inevitable question about how much to copy the artist being tributed. Esposito answer is to stick pretty much to the Francis feel on all the material, avoiding any radical reinterpretation. Esposito is a gifted perfomer who makes it all work, with great finesse and charm. Her dialog bits (in the show expertly directed by the great Lennie Watts) are informative and well-edited. And the band does a great job of re-creating the sound and vibe of the era.
Having seen her, I can picture her, with swinging long brunette hair in a headband, scuba dress, and high boots rocking to the music while listening to the CD. But I think that feel still comes across in her material.
(OK, it wasn’t the scuba-dress-and-boots look.)
*When Ron and I saw Jim Van Slyke’s Neil Sedaka show, I kept asking him, “Was THAT song a hit?”