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Just Smile by Matteo Brancaleoni and Sellani

'Just Smile' is the sensational debut album of the 25 year old singer Matteo Brancaleoni (pronounced Brankaleeonee), one of the younger generation of jazz performers who, along with such personalities as Michael Bublè, Peter Cincotti, Jane Monheit is poised to make a big impression on audiences who don't normally listen to jazz.

Here's a new young singer with a fresh take. Although he was born and bred in Italy, Brancaleoni brings a distinctly American jazz flavour.

His talent is not indicative of his young years, but he speaks with a voice that is reminiscent of the styles made famous by Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett. In his own way Matteo not only draws upon those influences, he also exhibits a level of maturity that is not obvious physically speaking.

When listening to Matteo Brancaleoni, you'll find within his singing a treasure trove of honesty.

Here he is able to muster an interpretation that is far beyond his age, filled with tinges of insight, regret, heartache, and love that one can only imagine. It's a really good performance and one that bodes very well for Mr. Branacleoni's future vocal endeavors.

Brancaleoni has thorough command of a pure, glorious, warm baritone voice, near - perfect pitch, great taste and a natural and intuitive grasp of jazz. His timing and phrasing are exquisite. His voice has a sexy swagger; it’s steady, controlled and full of attitude. The confidence is evident in the interpretations of the lyrics.

Brancaleoni is accompanied by featuring the great 80 year piano player Renato Sellani, who has played among with legends such as Billie Holliday, Chet Baker, Sarah Vaughan, Charles Trenet, Phil Woods, Lee Konits, Tony Scott. His vocal talent is astonishing.

A charming and beautiful album featuring an All - Star Band composed by first rate musicians, Fabrizio Bosso - he really rocks on trumpet! - drummer Stefano Bagnoli (drum), Massimo Moriconi (bass), and some of them truly Italian jazz legends as sax player Gianni Basso and guitarist Franco Cerri. All the new arrangements, written by Sellani and Brancaleoni, are unique and fresh. Franco Cerri’s arrangement of "My Funny Valentine" is simply thrilling.

The selection of material is immaculate. An extraordinary balance between jazz standards (But Not For Me, Nature Boy, Autumn Leaves, My Funny Valentine Everything Happens To Me, Pennies From Heaven), and classic tender songs (I Wish You Love, Smile, More, Put Your Dreams Away, Moonlight in Vermont).

His heartbreaking way with standards is there for all to see, he makes them fresh once again.

The album closes with his exquisitely beautiful and heartfelt rendition of "When You Wish Upon A Star" .

Brancaleoni, proves in his debut album, to be totally part of the history of our music, to love it and respect it with poetic humbleness. His vocal abilities appear in all their shear and majestic beauty, while his great partners support him the best way they ever could.

This record will make us anxious to hear what Brancaleoni will do next time out, or maybe a few years from now.

Recorded in October 2006, Just Smile features the youthful singer mostly on familiar standards, making the songs sound as if they were written for him.

The beauty of Matteo Brancaleoni’s voice is perfectly captured on this recording. The rhythm section is perfectly balanced and the focus is primarily on the singer. The results sound simpler to achieve than they must have been in reality, and have a very natural feel.

With this record, Matteo Brancaleoni proves that he is not just a great crooner, an heir to Sinatra for our time, but a jazz singer of the first rank. He has now begun to take his place among the jazz greats, with nowhere to go but over the top.

There are many fine jazz vocalists out there but Brancaleoni is truly something special. "Brancaleoni is a true successor to Frank Sinatra" wrote "La Stampa" in Italy.

In the end, one is left with the impression of a great new talent on the jazz scene, and it certainly is welcome.

While Brancaleoni may need some time for his vocal talents to mature to match the Sinatra comparisons, there is every indication that he will only continue to grow as a singer. Given the lofty height from which he is embarking on his career, one can only conclude that we can expect really great things from Matteo Brancaleoni in the future. And the present ain't too shabby, either.

A perfect, new introducing for a crooner that's bound to leave his mark.

If ever there was an artist to include in your repertoire of recordings to experience ‘Just Smile’ is one of them.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Matteo Brancaleoni and Sellani
  • CD Title: Just Smile
  • Genre: Jazz Vocals
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Philology Jazz
  • Tracks: But Not For Me, Moonlight In Vermont, Fly Me To The Moon, Blame It On My Youth, Smile, I Wish You Love, Everything Happens To Me, More, These Foolish Things, My Way, Pennies From Heaven, My Funny Valentine, Put Your Dreams Away, Nature Boy, Autumn Leaves, When You Wish Upon A Star.
  • Musicians: Matteo Brancaleoni (vocals,), Renato Sellani (piano), Gianni Basso (saxophone), Fabrizio Bosso (trumpet), Franco Cerri (guitar) Massimo Moriconi (bass), Stefano Bagnoli (drums).
  • Rating: Five Stars
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