When Roseanna Vitro turned to her pianist Wednesday night at the Vine St. Bar & Grill and said, "How long have we been playing together, Fred?" the musical tone for the New York-based singer's West Coast debut instantly became clear.
The key word, of course, was "playing." Vitro came across as a performer determined to use her voice with the same musical breadth and density with which instrumentalists use their horns. Her musical connection with pianist Fred Hersch, bassist Bob Bowman and drummer Ralph Penland had the interaction of an ensemble, rather than the separatism of a singer with accompaniment.
Vitro's scatting, for example, reached well beyond the repetitious riffing typical of many jazz vocalists. On an easy-swinging "It Could Happen to You" and a harder-edged, up-tempo "In the Name of Love," she roved easily across three octaves, curling her line around the chords with the punch and drive of a first-rate jazz improviser.
Her blues singing, rich with slippery melismas and brassy shouts, was just as good, especially on a powerfully intense final chorus of "I Ain't Got Nothing but the Blues."