Record of the Day: Rosie Vela, "Zazu"

Record of the Day: Rosie Vela, “Zazu”

Rosie Vela
Zazu (Cd A&M 395016-2)

Mysterious character, Rosie Vela; beautiful, self-effacing figure who gave very few interviews (and never performed in concert) found success as a model in Los Angeles; In the meantime, she began to write her first songs and after submitting auditions to Gary Katz, Steely Dan's historic producer, she found herself signed to A & M Records.
While working on the album she found herself by chance meeting Steely Dan (of which she was a fanatic), who, impressed by the originality of Rosie's compositions, decided to collaborate on the album by playing together in the studio for the first time after years of misunderstandings.

What is the interest of “Zazu”? First of all in the beauty of the compositions, created with refinement of writing and use of structures that take these songs astray from the usual, giving the album a sound image rich in jazz and pop suggestions seen through an unsettling angle; secondly in Rosie's voice, devoid of virtuosity or
spectacular but fascinating and decidedly personal extension, capable of giving life to excellent songs such as “Magic Smile”, “Interlude”, “Tonto” and “Zazu”, full of very strange lyrics, filled with cryptic images, which have little to envy of those of Donald Fagen himself.

As always Katz brought together in the studio the cream of the best sessionmen from Jim Keltner to Yogi Horton, from Jimmy Haslip to Tony Levin. The sounds are still impressive after so many years and the playing perfection is absolute; the arrangements are essential and do full justice to Rosie's world by arranging elements around her voice capable of highlighting her in the best way without ever overpowering her.

The work achieved considerable success but to this day it remains the only one; the record company rejected a subsequent album (apparently excellent) which is now talked about among enthusiasts but which no one has ever listened to. For many years it seems that she is working on her third album although there is no evidence of this as she Rosie continues to deny herself to photographers and interviewers. For now, her fans must continue to listen to “Zazu”, which fortunately contains songs that can be listened to hundreds of times without getting tired.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.