Lina Orfanos: Essentially Ella
2016: Babinis Productions, USA
Lina Orfanos on Vocals
John Benitez on Acoustic Bass
Charles Blenzig on Piano, Fender Rhodes, Keyboards
Spiros Exaras on Electric Guitar, Classical Guitar
Richie Morales on Drums, Shakers
Essiet Okon Essiet on Acoustic Bass
Gary Schreiner on Accordion, Harmonica, Piano
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 12, 2016
This CD is a breathtaking selection of standards, all with original arrangements and musical direction by Spiros Exaras, who appears on this album playing electric and classical guitar, as well as duo vocals. Lina Orfanos, in her homage to Ella Fitzgerald, sings all your favorite songs on one CD, composed by greats like the Gershwins, Arlen and Mercer, Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, and more. Two of my favorite instruments, harmonica and accordion, are featured on three tracks each, played by pianist, Gary Schreiner. Ms. Orfanos sings in a wide vocal range, with perfect pitch, clear, lovely tone, and an aura of yearning in her vocal style. Her choice of music personnel was key, with a few musicians on two or three instruments. This is an album you’ll keep close, with its poignant, sensational tunes.
#1 – Lullaby of Birdland – Composed by George Shearing and George David Weiss. This stunning song is sung at the center of Ms. Orfanos’ strong vocal power, as her lyrics swing and reverberate amidst Spiros Exaras’ luscious classical guitar. Charles Blenzig, on piano, John Benitez, on acoustic bass, and Richie Morales, on drums, collaborate with Ms. Orfanos to maximize the romanticism and lyricism of this renowned tune. The track fittingly closes on vocal scat, piano trills, a dash of drums, and bluesy bass.
#6 – Isn’t It Romantic? – Composed by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Gary Schreiner is featured here on scintillating harmonica, sharing Ms. Orfanos’ soprano notes with Mr. Exaras on classical guitar. Also joining the track’s ensemble are Mr. Benitez on bass, Mr. Morales on drums, and Mr. Blenzig on piano. With a high vocal range chosen for this tune, Ms. Orfanos meets the challenge with lilting lyricism.
#9 – Blues in the Night – Composed by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. This was my favorite track, opening with a scintillating electric guitar in luxurious, seamless phrases. The harmonica, here, was sumptuous, as it overlapped with Ms. Orfanos’ refrain and took the tune further along in simmering heat, evoking the great Ella Fitzgerald in the glittering, midnight moment. The track closes in a fusion of drums, bass, electric guitar, and harmonica; what could be better.
#11 – One Note Samba – Composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim. Essiet Okon Essiet, acoustic bassist, is gorgeously featured on this track, after the one minute, a cappella vocal introduction by Ms. Orfanos, occasionally combined with the classical guitar. After that one-minute eloquent opening, bass, drums, shakes, piano, guitar, and a south-of-the-border accordion create rambunctious samba rhythms. This track kicks the energy up a few notches with one of Ms. Orfanos’ finest vocal turns, bringing us all to a Rio Carnivale.