Leonisa Ardizzone is a juggler. Not a juggler of colorful balls or bowling pins, but of her interests, ideals and avocations. One by one, throughout her life she has added to her juggler’s props - teaching, dancing, singing, writing, working for peace and justice, parenting…On occasion Leonisa’s passions for music and live performance have been overshadowed by her roles as an educator and mother, but never for long. Music and entertaining is the thing that feeds her soul. And as a skilled juggler, she knows when to put a thing down to add another. Enter Leonisa Ardizzone Quintet.
By day Leonisa runs a large not-for-profit that enriches the lives of New York City children. Her evenings are shared with her ever-engaging daughter Rafaella. But in-between and whenever she can, she makes music with her quintet. The Leonisa Ardizzone Quintet features Leonisa on vocals, Chris Jennings on guitar, Jess Jurkovic on piano, Justin Hines on drums and either Bob Sabin or Bob Bowen on bass. Critics praise the group, saying [the group] “is flexible and can turn on a dime…everyone is obviously having a good time with the music” (George Harris, All About Jazz – LA), and sounds “at home with each other so it’s easy to feel at home with them” (Rob Lester).
Leonisa is a “multi-faceted vocalist” with “a lovely textured voice” (John Gilbert, ejazz news), who “aces any musical twists and turns” (Rob Lester). She is a vocalist “who swings articulates and phrases wonderfully from the first notes...to the last…” (Jersey Jazz). Her “vocalese, scat singing and original lyrics fit comfortably in the pocket.” (Jim Santella, Cadence). While reviewers may praise her, Leonisa does not consider herself a singer with a backing band but rather a member of the group. The quintet is a cohesive and creative unit and she is another instrument interpreting the repertoire. Because of this collaborative mindset, the interplay between the musicians is stellar; they complement and enhance one another. They share the spotlight and push the creative envelope.
Following-up on a critically acclaimed debut CD (Afraid of the Heights, ardijenn music, 2007), The Leonisa Ardizzone Quintet’s latest release the scent of bitter almonds… reflects a personally tumultuous year for Leonisa that saw the temporary dissolution and subsequent renewal of her 12 year marriage. The song choices, arrangements and overall feel of the music reveal the heartbreak, uncertainty, loss, passion and rediscovery of that period. The album tells of many kinds of love and conveys the roller coaster of emotion that deep love can evoke. the scent of bitter almonds… includes refreshing takes on standards (‘My Romance’, ‘Midnight Sun’, ‘A Train’ and ‘Willow Weep for Me’), bopping highs (‘Joy Spring’ and the original ‘Queen of the Universe’ inspired by the loss of her aged and beloved dog, and shortly thereafter her even older cat), autobiographical originals (‘On the Ropes’, ‘The Architect’s Lament’ and ‘Falling Down’, which captures the bittersweet feelings of watching your child grow up), and cheeky “kiss-off” tunes (‘Well You Needn’t’ and ‘Blues on the Corner’ with original lyrics by Ardizzone). Drummer Justin Hines – who enjoys writing songs for Leonisa - once again adds a comical original into the mix, the unlikely love song ‘Scary Face’.
the scent of bitter almonds…is a passionate journey filled with excellent musicianship that is sure to make you smile, laugh and cry – all at the same time.