Dominic Mancuso’s reputation could have rested on his Juno Award-winning Comfortably Mine [DOT Productions, 2010] alone. However, he continued his passionate musical exhortations on his next album, Sub-Urban Gypsy  and, just when you thought he couldn’t possibly go much further he has turned in a magical performance on Dances in My Mind. This ambitious-sounding repertoire consists of some older music re imagined on a larger – orchestral – canvas as well as what appears to be more recent music. Both groups of songs have been further uplifted in the presence of Mr Mancuso’s regular Group as well as with some rather special musical guests, including the pianist Vittorio Mezza, whose arrangements and extraordinarily empathetic pianism is heard all over this music.
Throughout, Mr Mancuso displays his natural abilities for composition and prodigious vocal gifts, his gravelly, big-boned and often long-limbed, voice is stretched to its limits and then – remarkably – to a place that can only be described as a rarefied realm. On each song Mr Mancuso seems to reach new pinnacles of performance. The opener, “Dances in My Mind”, takes a fresh look at this older piece and features his regular [Dominic Mancuso Group]. It is joyously upbeat and sets the tone for all the rest of the spectacular music to follow.
The following song, “Memamenamo” has been re-scored for performance with a superb string quartet that includes the ubiquitous – and quite brilliant – violinists Drew Jurecka, Rebekah Wolkstein, violist Claudio Vena and the cellist Lydia Munchinsky. A series of wonderful songs ensue including the slightly mysterious ballad “Milano”, which is edged with a somewhat rueful feel. This song also features the superb Quisha Wint, a lustrous vocalist, who also appears on several other songs, on which she leaves her own inimitable seductive imprint. I would be remiss if I did not mention the stellar performances by Mr Mancuso’s guitarist Tony Zorzi and pianist Jerry Caringi, as well as the horn-ubermeister John Johnson, bassist Paco Luviano, percussionist Chendy León and the other superb musical guests – all of whom play with idiomatic elegance.
Throughout this repertoire, Mr Mancuso rings in the changes in mood, structure and tempo, making for a constantly interesting programme. The considerable degree of balance and integration of melody, harmony and rhythm, of composition and improvisation and, most of all, the elements of individuality and exploration are impressively maintained throughout. This is a performance for the ages, one that bodes well for whatever new music is to come from the extraordinary mind – and vocalastics – of Mr Mancuso.
Track list – 1: Dances in My Mind; 2: Menamenamo; 3: Blissful State of Mind; 4: Live and Let Live; 5: Night Drive; 6: Her Simple Truth; 7: Milano; 8: Lu Scuru; 9: Think of Me; 10: Salvatore; 11: No War
Personnel – The Dominic Mancuso Group – Dominic Mancuso: vocals; Jerry Caringi: Hammond B3 organ, accordion and vocals [1, 2]; Tony Zorzi: guitars; John Johnson: saxophones and bass clarinet; ; Paco Luviano: bass; Chendy León: drums and percussion. Featuring – Vittorio Mezza: piano, celeste and Fender Rhodes; Kevin Turcotte: trumpet; Michael Davidson: marimba and vibraphone; George Koller: contrabasse ; Quisha Wint: vocals [1, 2, 4, 5, 7]; Sam Mellace: vocals ; Mark Schiavello: vocals . String Quartet – Drew Jurecka: violin; Rebekah Wolkstein: violin; Claudio Vena: viola; Lydia Munchinsky: cello
Released – 2021
Label – DOT Productions
Runtime – 59:00