Vocalist and composer Irene Jalenti claims a place in the jazz world for her vast musical talents on her long-awaited debut album, Dawn, released on October 29, 2021 on Antidote Sounds. The album collects four of Jalenti’s scintillating originals along with six smartly chosen covers and a stunning array of Baltimore’s finest instrumentalists, including guest appearances by two international stars: trumpeter Sean Jones and vibraphonist Warren Wolf.
Although Dawn is her first recording, Jalenti has for over a decade been an esteemed part of the jazz community in the combined Baltimore and Washington DC areas. While fans, friends, and colleagues have often urged her to record her work, it was the recent COVID-19-imposed seclusion that finally let her conceive, develop, and execute a vision for her debut album. “It wasn’t until last year that I felt I had what it takes to make a record,” Jalenti says. Quarantine, she adds, “allowed me to have time to dig a little deeper into myself… what do I have to say? Who am I in this?”
The answers to those questions are on radiant display throughout the album. She plies her rich deep tones and masterly delivery to gripping performances of the standards “How Deep Is the Ocean,” “You and the Night and the Music,” and “Beautiful Love,” the latter two featuring Jones’s gleaming trumpet work. She also discovers new layers of emotion and meaning in the Brazilian classic “Carinhoso” and the Beatles’ “Let It Be,” and evokes an aura of profound mystery with Howard Blake’s “Walking in the Air.”
That’s to say nothing of the joys and marvels to be found in Jalenti’s own songs. She offsets the constructive criticism in the lyrics of “That’s How the Story Goes” with a hard-driving scat line. With “Moon and Sun” she concocts a dramatic meditation on the cycles of day and night, and thus of life. On “Alma Desnuda” and “Dawn,” Jalenti demonstrates her imaginative knack for musical settings of poetry—here the words of Alfonsina Storni and Meleager of Gadara, respectively.
It is a testament to her artistry that Jalenti was able to attract such formidable talents to accompany her. Along with Wolf (who illuminates “Dawn”) and Jones (who appears on five tracks), she demonstrates great synergy with her ace working rhythm section of pianist Alan Blackman, bassist Jeff Reed, and drummer Eric Kennedy. In addition, Argentine American guitarist Cristian Perez puts his sublime stamp on two tracks. Together they help to elevate Dawn into a triumph by helping Jalenti to find and express herself. “My sound came out when I finally allowed my own music to come out,” she says.
JazzTimes Magazine - December 2021
by Thomas Conrad
Today, even though the worldwide jazz art form is vibrant, too many musicians record before they have something significant to say. Irene Jalenti is not one of them.
She was born in 1980 in Terni, Italy but was educated in the United States. She has a bachelor’s degree from Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and a master’s from Howard University in Washington, D.C. She has been active on the jazz scene of “the DMV” (the District, Maryland and Virginia) for over a decade. But she waited to make a record until she felt she was ready. The wait is over.
Dawn announces the arrival of a distinctive, fully formed singer. Jalenti has a deep, complex, compelling voice and the emotional authenticity that only comes with life experience. She is well supported here by her working DMV rhythm section (pianist Alan Blackman, bassist Jeff Reed, drummer Eric Kennedy). Three impact players make appearances as guests: trumpeter Sean Jones, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, and guitarist Cristian Perez.
Jalenti writes some of her own song and composes musical settings for poems. (“Alma Desnuda”, by the Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni, is pure gliding grace.) But the best moments on Dawn are songs you thought you knew until you hear Jalenti sing them. Her dark voice reveals unsuspected nuances in familiar material. “Let It Be” is a newly triumphant testament. When Jalenti proclaims, “There will be an answer!” you believe her. “How Deep Is the Ocean?” is similarly personal and dramatic; her interpretation turns the song’s rhetorical questions into a powerful declarative ceremony. “Beautiful Love” is sheer exhilaration. Jalenti rephrases it into lines of irregular length. Then, with overdubs of herself, she lavishes upon it a choir of scatting voices. Then Sean Jones flies away with it.
Now that Irene Jalenti has started making records, let’s hope she won’t stop.
Midwest Records • November 2021
by Guido Crosetti
One of the good things to come out of the pandemic is it gave this Italian born, DC denizen the gumption to grab the reins and make her long over due solo debut. With a smart mix of songs from originals to modern chestnuts and an eclectic round of geographic genre splicing, Jalenti shows her familial musical roots can be passed down through the generations. A lively set full of nice surprises, this is the face of modern jazz vocal that keeps its roots in tradition. Well done.