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Eric Van Aro | Obsession

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Obsession

by Eric Van Aro

At a time when the jazz vocal world has seen a diminishing flow of appealing male singers, it's a welcome pleasure to hear Eric van Aro in action on Obsession, backed by the stirring piano of Italian jazz artist Fabio Gianni. Don Heckman
Genre: Jazz: Jazz Vocals
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
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1. I'm Not Anyone (feat. Fabio Gianni)
4:41 $0.99
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2. Since I Fell for You (feat. Fabio Gianni)
4:43 $0.99
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3. Rain (feat. Fabio Gianni)
4:15 $0.99
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4. Ordinary Fool (feat. Fabio Gianni)
3:44 $0.99
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5. With You I'm Born Again (feat. Sheri Pedigo & Fabio Gianni)
3:43 $0.99
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6. Obsession (feat. Alex Battini De Barrerio, Sebastiano Mambretti & Fabio Gianni)
4:15 $0.99
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7. Dancing to the Rhythm (feat. Iguazù Acoustic Trio)
4:26 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Eric van Aro’s “Obsession EP” album leans in the direction of contemporary, jazz-tinged songs. It includes five tracks – “I'm Not Anyone,” “Since I Fell For You” “Rain” “Ordinary Fool” and “Obsession” -- in which he is backed by the sole accompaniment of the brilliant Italian jazz pianist Fabio Gianni. The results showcase the multi-layered depths of Van Aro's skills as an interpretive artist. With Gianni providing an irresistible rhythmic and harmonic foundation, Van Aro displays the full breadth of his musical story-telling ability to illuminate the essence of each of the songs in the Obsession program.
“I’m Not Anyone,” by Paul Anka, was included because of Van Aro's fascination with the Sammy Davis, Jr. version, ever since he heard Davis sing it on a TV special in the early '70s.
“Since I Fell For You” has been a hit since Annie Laurie's version in the '40s and, more recently, by George Benson. Once again, Van Aro uses his lyrically expressive skills to bring it vividly to life from his own unique perspective.
“Rain,” written and recorded by Dr. John, is remembered by Van Aro for the lush string orchestration by Claus Ogerman. But this version, lacking the strings, nonetheless emerges as an equally captivating interpretation, blending Gianni's superb backing with Van Aro's intimate vocalizing. “Ordinary Fool,” from the 1976 musical gangster film, Bugsy Malone, was written by Paul Williams and recorded by Mel Torme. Van Aro's version captures both the story-telling of the original as well as the jazz undercurrent of the Torme interpretation. And, once again, Gianni's propulsive backing provides the exact essence of jazz vitality.
“With You I'm Born Again.” David Shire's 1980 song, recorded by Billy Preston and Syreeta, is performed by Van Aro in a gently floating duet version with country singer/songwriter Sheri Pedigo.
“Obsession,” the title song of the album, composed by Brazilian singer/songwriter Dori Caymmi, revives the love of Brazilian music that has been present in Van Aro's family since his mother, Caterina Valente, was one of the first artists to bring bossa nova to the U.S. and Europe.
“Dancing To The Rhythm.” On the Stevie Wonder classic, Van Aro is backed by the dynamic vitality of the Iguazu Acoustic Trio, who have performed with him on several recordings. The results are memorable. “It does not get any better than this,” concludes Van Aro on the liner notes for Obsession. “It's what being in this line of work is all about.”
Eric Van Aro's future in “this line of work” appears to be on a definite upswing with the release of Obsession. And what becomes eminently clear with every hearing of Van Aro in action – recorded and live – is that he is now entering a period of impressive musical authenticity with a strong jazz emphasis.
At a time when young female singers have been dominating the jazz vocal category, Van Aro is displaying all the signs of emerging as a creatively significant male jazz singer
- Don Heckman, The International Review of Music.

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Reviews


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Nick de Riso

OBSESSION: an endlessly fascinating unity of vision
There is a striking symbiosis here between vocalist Eric van Aro and pianist Fabio Gianni, who also co-arranged Obsession. Together, they transform a clutch of pop songs in new jazz favorites and uncover a lost classic or two – all while working with an endlessly fascinating unity of vision. They are, even when working with a few choice collaborators late in the proceedings, joined at the musical hip.

Gianni’s darkly resonant instrument, for instance, sets a plaintive atmosphere for van Aro’s entrance on Paul Anka’s “I’m Not Anyone.” Van Aro explores the empowering lyric with an emotional sweep that shakes off sad resignation in favor of a hard-eyed determination. But Gianni’s solo, rather than underlining that anthem-like bravado, instead strikes a more panoramic stance – adding a sense of twinkling reminiscence that offers van Aro a chance to start a slow burn all over again once he returns to the microphone. He then ends “I’m Not Anyone” with another thunderous assertion, before a final delicately touching turn from Gianni.

Obsession provides van Aro with some intriguing choices in material, beginning with Dr. John’s deep cut “Rain” (from 1978’s City Lights) – which finds the singer growling to great effect. But even where the album might feel familiar, as on Buddy Johnson’s “Since I Fell For You,” van Aro mixes things up: He and Gianni give the track a late-night saloon feel, more controlled and ultimately more filled with hurt than most who approach this familiar lyric. Paul Williams’ “Ordinary Fool,” the last of the EP’s duo recordings, is given a spritely feel – like these two are skipping in between the raindrops.

Van Aro and Gianni are then joined by guest vocalist Sheri Pedigo for a tender reworking of the 1979 hit “With You, I’m Born Again” from Billy Preston and Syreeta Wright. Gianni provides a reserved accompaniment, without the period-piece strings that gave the original an overly sentimental feel – and this track is utterly reborn. Percussionists Alex Battini de Barreiro and Sabastiano Mambretti then add an insistent energy to the title track, opening the door for a jazzy performance from van Aro that has all of the inventiveness of classic vocalese. Finally, van Aro is joined by the Latin-flavored Iguazu trio for a similarly engaging take on Stevie Wonder’s “Dancing in Rhythm” to close out Obsession, a highly recommended effort co-produced by van Aro and Antonio Chindamo.
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Heath Andrews

Obsession is a masterfully crafted EP that is a must-own for fans of piano based
Eric Van Aro’s 2013 EP, Obsession is built simply around Van Aro’s voice and his accompaniment by Fabio Gianni on piano. Though it’s a simple premise, it carries with it a deep sound thanks in large part to the talents of the two individuals and the music selections they’ve made. Obsession delivers entirely on its premise as well; if you’re looking for a gentle voice and piano album, this is fantastic; if you’re not looking for a full band performance, look elsewhere. Though there’s something to be said for cross genre appeal, this is the kind of recording that has a set theme, a set goal, and it accomplishes it masterfully.

Part of the record’s charm is in the songs that Van Aro has chosen to cover. He picks from a variety of different sources including Dr. John, Stevie Wonder, Mel Torme and Sammy Davis Jr. The depth of the album increases if you’re familiar with the original recordings, but it’s not necessary to know them in order to appreciate what Van Aro and Gianni create. By sticking largely to the combination of one voice and one piano, songs like “Rain,” originally by Dr. John, turn into something far more intimate and at times, powerful.

For a little more than the first half of the EP, Van Aro and Gianni share the spotlight and give each other ample room for them to showcase their talents. Van Aro’s voice is powerful compelling, and soulful. Each track is given a fittingly respectful interpretation, born quite obviously from love and appreciation of the songs. The lead-off track, “I’m Not Anyone” is a Paul Anka song that Van Aro fell in love with after he heard Sammy Davis Jr. perform it in the early ‘70s.

With Gianni’s piano being the only other sound on the first four tracks, this places a tremendous amount of emphasis on the song and how Van Aro performs it. Gianni himself is a fabulous pianist, his skills becoming apparent as he tastefully embellishes the melody between Van Aro’s lines, and creates rich instrumental breaks. “Ordinary Fool” for example has a lovely instrumental section that Gianni allows to build from a simple continuation of the melody to a playfully quick display of his finger speed.

The other tracks in this section of the record, “Since I Fell for You,” “Rain,” and “I’m Not Anyone,” play out similarly, with Van Aro belting them out in beautiful fashion and Gianni playing the part of the perfect accompanist. As mentioned before, there’s a set theme to the music and the style here, and if you’re not keen on soft jazz or piano and vocal arrangements, then this is likely not going to win you over no matter how well it’s performed.

The final three songs throw a bit of a sonic curve ball at the listener by utilizing some different sounds to further enhance the recordings. “With You I’m Born Again” was originally a David Shire penned piece that became a substantial hit for the late Billy Preston and Syreeta Wright. To carry on the spirit of that duet, Van Aro brings in country singer/songwriter Sheri Pedigo, and the blending of their voices is positively elegant. Gone from this version is the orchestral backing and replacing it is a renewed focus on the song’s emotional, sensual vocal, heightened by Gianni’s spot-on accompaniment.

The title track is again propelled by Gianni’s fantastic piano, but there’s an added twist to the song’s sound courtesy of percussion work by Alex Battini de Barreiro and Sebastiano Mambretti. Much like the album itself, the addition of simple percussion instruments makes for a deceptively deep sound. It quickly becomes a prelude to the closing track, “Dancing to the Rhythm,” a Stevie Wonder song that is performed by Van Aro and Gianni with some help from the Iguazu Acoustic Trio. Every part of this track sizzles, from the gripping vocals to the thumping bassline. The drums are intensely compelling, rattling off a near constant number of fills and the combination of this with the other instrumentation creates a rare breed of acoustic funk blended with jazz.

Obsession is a masterfully crafted EP that is a must-own for fans of piano based jazz. Eric Van Aro is an immensely talented vocalist, capable of displaying his love for music as much as he is his ability to perform. Fabio Gianni is a perfect match for him as his understanding of music is also comparable to his considerable talent for playing it. The addition of vocalists, percussionists, and a jazz trio in the closing tracks is the icing on the already decadent cake that is Obsession.

Artist: Eric Van Aro
EP: Obsession
Review by: Heath Andrews
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)
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Alex Henderson

A worthwhile listen
Eric Van Aro, Jr., (ericvanaryo.com) is a European vocalist with a strong appreciation of American jazz, soul and pop-rock. The veteran singer, who grew up in Switzerland and London, is the son of an Italian vocalist (Caterina Valente) and a German juggler (Eric Van Aro, Sr.). He sings in at least three different languages (English, German and Italian), and he was also exposed to French growing up because he had a French-speaking nanny. But Van Aro sticks to English on his seven-song, 29-minute album Obsession, and the English language works well for him on a likable release that draws on vocal jazz, traditional pop and torch singing as well as adult contemporary, R&B and soft rock.

Although not the work of a jazz purist, Obsession is heavily jazz-influenced. And there are hints of jazz vocalist Mark Murphy on some of the tracks, especially Stevie Wonder’s funky “Dancing to the Rhythm,” Dori Caymmi’s “Obsession” (the title track) and a warm performance of the Buddy Johnson standard “Since I Fell for You.” Johnson’s song (which goes back to the mid-1940s) has been recorded by countless artists over the years, ranging from Dinah Washington, Eartha Kitt, Charles Brown and Doris Day to Barbra Streisand to Bonnie Raitt. “Since I Fell for You” has been recorded a variety of ways; Van Aro approaches it as a slow, bluesy torch ballad, and the use of an acoustic piano enhances the intimacy of his performance (the pianist is Italian musician Fabio Gianni).

Smoky torch ballads are one of Van Aro’s strong points. That approach works well for him not only on “Since I Fell for You,” but also, on “I’m Not Anyone,” Dr. John’s “Rain” and Paul Williams’ “Ordinary Fool” (which was heard in the 1976 film Bugsy Malone). Williams’ original version from the 1970s was soft rock with a jazz/torch song influence, and Van Aro maintains that jazz/torch aesthetic.

Brazilian star Dori Caymmi is the son of another famous Brazilian artist: the late Dorival Caymmi, and “Obsession” is one of Dori Caymmi’s best-known songs. “Obsession” has been recorded by Dianne Reeves and Sarah Vaughan as well as by various Brazilian artists; it has been performed in both English and Portuguese, and Van Arco goes with the English lyrics but maintains a Brazilian beat.

It should be noted that Mark Murphy has a long history of performing Brazilian songs. So when one hears English lyrics, a Brazilian beat and hints of Murphy on Van Aro’s version of “Obsession,” it is an appropriate combination.

“Dancing to the Rhythm” is easily the album’s most funky and exuberant offering. Ballads are a high priority on this 2013 release, but with “Dancing to the Rhythm,” Van Aro’s more energetic side comes out.

“With You I’m Born Again,” meanwhile, is the least jazz-influenced track on this album. That selection is pure adult contemporary. Back in 1979, the Carol Connors/David Shire ballad was a major hit for Billy Preston and Syreeta Wright (who was once married to Stevie Wonder). Although Preston and Wright were known for soul in the 1970s, “With You I’m Born Again” was so adult contemporary that it was much bigger as a pop hit than as an R&B hit: “With You I’m Born Again” only made it to #86 on Billboard’s R&B singles chart, but it soared to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on Billboard’s adult contemporary singles chart. Van Aro is quite faithful to the spirit of the original version, maintaining that adult contemporary mood and performing the tune as a male/female duet with Los Angeles-based singer Sheri Pedigo. Preston and Wright performed “With You I’m Born Again” as a male/female duo 34 years ago, and Van Aro and Pedigo offer a version that is quite similar.

Obsession is not recommended to jazz purists. But for those who hold vocal jazz, torch singing, traditional pop, funk and adult contemporary in equally high regard, it is a decent and worthwhile listen.

Eric Van Aro
Obsession
Review by Alex Henderson
3 stars out of 5
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Dan MacIntosh

A singers singer
Eric Van Aro’s mother is a singer and his father is a German juggler. Is it any surprise, then, that Van Aro can sing in multiple languages, including English, Italian and German? On Obsession, however, Van Aro sticks to English alone, and boy can this guy sing!
Van Aro tends to prefer song standards, both old and new, for his EP Obsession. The vocal centerpiece for this project is a piano-only backed “Since I Fell for You,” which finds Van Aro draining every ounce of passion out of the 1945 Buddy Johnson torch song.
It might be tempting to misjudge Van Aro as merely a lounge singer. Anybody that would do such a wrong thing, however, has probably watched too much 70s era Bill Murray, who was famous for imitating a bad lounge room lizard and transforming popular music at the time (like the Star Wars theme)into hilariously insufferable schmaltz. Granted, it wouldn’t be all too out of place to find Van Aro singing in a hotel lounge, as his late night romantic musings would fit right into that atmosphere. With this said, though, Van Aro never attempts to play the cool, sex-obsessed nighttime man that Murray portrayed; rather, he’s a singer’s singer, that just happens to choose material also fitting for the lounge scene.
While “Since I Fell for You” represents the vintage wing of song standards, van Aro’s duet cover of “With You I’m Born Again,” sung along with Sheri Pedigo, spotlights a relatively newer standard. You may recall Billy Preston and Syreeta Wright’s original hit version of Carol Connors and David Shire’s 1979 duet ballad, which originally appeared on the Fast Break soundtrack. Interestingly, this song came along right around the period of the ‘Born Again’ movement, a time when folks – many times famous celebrities – were converting to Christianity and claiming to be ‘born again.’ This song plays a little on this spiritual experience, but puts it into romantic terms. This is a longtime soul/R&B tradition, dating all the way back to Ray Charles and the way he took gospel sentiments and gave these ideas a secular spin to great commercial success.
The musicianship throughout this EP is top tier. The title track has a bit of Latin groove to it, whereas “Dancing to the Rhythm” rolls much more to a standard jazz beat. There are quite a few tracks, however, that feature only piano and vocal, including “Rain,” “Since I Fell for Your” and “I’m Not Anyone.” These are soul-baring songs, in that there isn’t a lot of sonic (instrumental) distraction. It forces Van Aro to pretty much carry the song with his vocal. He’s at his best during “Since I Fell for You,” which requires a vocal powerhouse to carry it off. He’s not just trying to sound pretty; you get the impression he’s really fallen for somebody and this song is his romantic testimony.
Obsession is an apt title for this work because true love is an obsession. Not the stalker variety, of course. However, if you say you’re in love with somebody, yet you’re not thinking about that someone day and night, I really have to question the validity of your love. Van Aro, particularly during “Since I Fell for You,” is convincing in his obsession throughout. This isn’t some sort of summer fling; nah, he sounds like he’s sold out, heart and soul.
Being this obsessed puts a person in a vulnerable position. They say that the harder they come, the harder they fall, which means that if this flame ever burns out, it will be one painful snuffing, with nothing but ashes to show for it. The best music, though, has always expressed the extremes in human emotions. Nobody wants a half-hearted love affair, so why should we settle for half-hearted love songs? Clearly, Eric Van Aro is not one to settle for less.
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Brian Arsenault @ International review of music

The man takes back for male jazz vocalists a little of the dominance of female j
You take a little Francis Albert phrasing, some Mel Torme smoothness and some Dr John deep, deep tones and you start to bubble up some of what Eric Van Aro is on Obsession.
The man takes back for male jazz vocalists a little of the dominance of female jazz singers in recent years.
This is a voice that could lure the unwary on the rocks of a club but also fill a Broadway stage, depending on material.
That club I mentioned, it’s a small room, so for most of the evening there’s only enough space for the singer and a pianist. That’s fabulous Fabio Gianni on piano and his work with Eric here goes beyond accompaniment.
He supports and enhances the vocals so well that at times, they become one. In musicality. In emotionality. In tonality. In totality.
Regarding the album’s songs, I could start anywhere so I’ll start with my favorite track, the jazz classic “Since I Fell For You.” All the yearning. The deeply felt bluesy sense of building emotion. The crescendos. Gianni is right there, right there with him the whole damn song. A powerhouse.
Then jump to the passionate delicacy of “With You I’m Born Again,” where Eric’s deep tones are balanced wonderfully by the higher notes of Sheri Pedigo. It’s a love song and a beautiful one.
More remarkably, it’s an intelligent one. A musical could probably be written around this song as its centerpiece.
Sheri is generally considered a country singer. Does that seem unusual? Consider that Duke Ellington is credited with saying that there are only two kinds of music, one of them good. Other voices are sometimes cited as the source of the remark but, well, they aren’t Ellington.
One of the joys of early twenty-first century music is that there are artists like Van Aro and Gianni who are not obstructed by genre and labels, who can reach widely, sometimes even beyond what critics can put in their little boxes. “I’m free,” Van Aro sings on the opening song “I’m Not Anyone,” and he is. Free from conformity, conventionality, constrictions.
So the same album can feature work from the Pauls Anka and Williams to Mac Rebbenack to Stevie Wonder.
With a title song, “Obsession,” that injects Bossa Nova into the album’s stew. That’s not surprising, as Eric’s mother is Caterina Valente, the fine Italian singer who brought Brazilian music to wider audiences before just about anyone.
And since it’s better to do Bossa Nova with true percussion, the masterful Sebastian Mambretti sits in.
The Doctor (John) is in when Van Aro and Gianni do a contemplative version of “Rain.” The sense of loss is so great you can hear the heavy rain all night.
“Ordinary Fool” plays like a tune from the American Songbook that just hasn’t been totally recognized yet. And you’ll be “Dancing to The Rhythm” on the way out as a funky Eric jazzes up the Stevie Wonder tune.
A guy whose mother spoke Italian to him as a child, his father German, and his nanny French, just gave us a fine American jazz album. And in English.
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