Pianist Rossano Sportiello and bassist/vocalist Nicki Parrott have recorded two duet albums together for Arbors Records -- People Will Say We’re In Love (2007) and Do It Again (2009). At 2 p.m., on Saturday, December 13, they will again be together, as the featured performers at the New Jersey Jazz Society’s annual meeting at Shanghai Jazz in Madison.
Rossano, originally from Vigevano, Italy, moved to New York City in 2007 and has played with a long list of jazz luminaries including trombonist Slide Hampton, trumpeter Clark Terry and his mentor, pianist Barry Harris. At the 25th anniversary of the Ascona (Switzerland) Jazz Festival in 2009, he received the Ascona Jazz Award in recognition of his expertise and mastery of jazz piano. His goal, he says, is “to play jazz and make it understandable to everybody. Most of all, I want to see people smiling and having fun!”
In a review of Sportiello’s tribute last year to the late George Shearing at Café Carlyle, The New York Times’ Stephen Holden said, “Working in the stride tradition, Mr. Sportiello showed technical virtuosity to echo that of Art Tatum.” Later, while playing tunes associated with Bill Evans, “his fingers floated across the keyboard, barely grazing the instrument, while producing some of the softest tones I’ve heard from a jazz pianist.”
A native of Newcastle, Australia, Parrott started playing the piano at age four. She switched to flute and then, at age 15, settled on the bass. After graduating from high school she moved to Sydney to study jazz at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music. While playing with several Australian jazz artists, she had the opportunity to hone her bass skills with visiting American bassists Ray Brown and John Clayton. In 1994 she received a grant from the Arts Council of Australia, which enabled her to come to New York City to study with bassist Rufus Reid.
Parrott remained in New York and, in 2000, began performing at the Iridium Jazz Club as part of the Les Paul Trio. According to NPR Music’s Grant Jackson, Paul was impressed with her vocal talents and urged her to add singing to her repertoire. Added Jackson: “She’s emerged as a fine singer and award-winning composer who’s recorded several of her own albums and appeared on dozens of records by other artists.” The list of those with whom she’s performed and recorded includes trumpeter Randy Brecker, pianist Dick Hyman, and tenor saxophonist Harry Allen.
Joe Lang, writing in Jersey Jazz Magazine, described Parrott’s 2012 album, Live at the Jazz Corner (Arbors Records), recorded with Sportiello and drummer Eddie Metz, as “one of those albums that makes an hour seem like five minutes… I played this disc at least a half-dozen times within days of receiving it and find new delights with each listen.”
Admission to the annual meeting is free to NJJS members and $10 for non-members; there is a $10 food/beverage minimum. Shanghai Jazz is located at 24 Main Street in Madison. For more information, call 1-800-303-6557 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.