ITALIAN VOCALIST CLIVIA TANISI MAKES HER DEBUT WITH A GORGEOUS, PROFOUNDLY PERSONAL 5-SONG EP PRODUCED BY HER HUSBAND, MASTER DRUMMER DAVE WECKL
Love’s Way Back, due out July 3, 2020 via Autumn Hill Records, marks Tanisi’s miraculous return to music after a two-decade hiatus, featuring an all-star band with Weckl, George Whitty, Tom Kennedy and Bob Franceschini
Although the exquisite Love’s Way Back marks the recording debut of Clivia Tanisi, the 5-song EP also represents a long-delayed return to a life in music for the Italian vocalist. Despite her lifelong passion for singing, Tanisi set her career aside for nearly 20 years to focus on raising her two daughters. Now, with the help and encouragement of her husband and producer, master drummer Dave Weckl, she finally shares her gift with the rest of the world.
Due out July 3 from Autumn Hill Records, Love’s Way Back is not only a deeply personal passion project for Tanisi, but it carries a message of hope and courage for anyone who’s long harbored a secret dream. Rich with soulful melodies and lush, layered harmonies, the project features a stunning all-star band assembled by Weckl, who also served as recording and mixing engineer in addition to his role as producer. The drummer is joined by bassist Tom Kennedy, saxophonist Bob Franceschini, and keyboardist George Whitty, who also arranged and mastered the music.
With a life’s worth of favorite songs to choose from, Tanisi selected five classic songs for the first steps along her musical journey. Each one is transformed into a vehicle for the singer’s spiritual, optimistic interpretations, together conveying a heartfelt theme of following the dictates of the soul, facing down fear and self-doubt to be true to one’s own self.
“I was born singing,” Tanisi says. “Ever since I was a baby it’s been a need, something in my blood. So when I stopped singing, it felt like a kind of death.”
Tanisi was born in Switzerland and raised in Salento, a small area in the Puglia region of Southern Italy in the heel of the boot. As a child she would serenade her neighbors from the terrace of her parents’ home. “All over the town, everyone could hear me singing,” she recalls, the joy of such free, unfettered expression still evident in her voice.
At the age of 8 she began performing in the Parish Choir of the church in her hometown. By the age of 12 she was singing professionally at weddings. Two years later her life was changed when a friend introduced her to jazz. “When I was young I was listening to pop music like Duran Duran,” she explains with a laugh. “Then one of my friends played me this song with trumpets and everyone improvising; it was wonderful. I had goosebumps. From there I fell in love with jazz: Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, all the greats.”
At just 14 Tanisi became a jazz singer, performing at piano bars as well as with jazz and blues gigs around the south of Italy. After the birth of her first daughter 21 years ago, Tanisi found herself struggling to balance the demands of motherhood with her increasingly demanding schedule.
“I was working a lot, so I would go without seeing my daughter for days,” she laments. “In the morning I’d be singing in the church, then I’d be performing at a wedding in the afternoon and have a gig the same night. That forced me to search into my soul and decide, ‘Do you want to be a mother or a singer?’ I didn't know how to manage both, so I felt that for me, it was better to be a mother.”
While she has no regrets about that decision, treasuring her strong relationship with two wonderful daughters as its outcome, Tanisi reveals that the loss of her primary passion was a constant struggle. The break was necessarily a complete one. “I didn’t even sing in the shower,” she explains. “It was really like a death inside. Music, of course, is life, so when I didn't have that part of me anymore, I just never felt right. I would cry rivers every time I talked about music.”
Meeting Weckl more than a decade ago not only brought a new romance into her life but also reintroduced music into her existence at the highest level. Weckl has been one of the most revered drummers in jazz, pop and rock circles for more than 35 years. He’s perhaps best known for his Grammy-winning tenure with Chick Corea’s Elektric and Akoustic Bands, along with his own prolific career as an innovative bandleader. Their shared love of music certainly played a part in forging the bond between Weckl and Tanisi, though it took several years of loving encouragement and hard work for the singer to finally regain her voice.
“Clivia worked very hard,” Weckl says. “At the end of the day it was a lot of fun and a very emotional situation for both of us. When we finally listened back to what we’d recorded, we were both in tears.”
Originally planned as a simple, intimate duo session for voice and guitar, the project soon took on a more elaborate form. Tanisi’s rapid development and obvious dedication to her craft led Weckl to call on some of his closest friends and longtime collaborators to lend their estimable talents, in particular Whitty’s arranging skills. Each of the EP’s five songs was chosen for its own beauty as well as its contribution to the overall message of the album. The album opens with “Learning How to Fly,” with its lovely evocation of taking steps towards an improbable dream. The tune links the project to another husband-and-wife team, Tuck & Patti, who originally recorded it for their 1995 album of the same name.
“Love You Inside Out” wholly reimagines the Bee Gees song, while “Let’s Stay Together” uses the Al Green classic to celebrate Tanisi’s bond not only with her husband but with her daughters and other blood relatives who have proved so supportive of her choices throughout life. The tune is highlighted by Bob Franceschini’s emotive tenor solo. The late Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands” is meaningful as Tanisi never knew any of her own grandparents, all of whom passed away too soon. She has since witnessed the deep love between her daughters and their multiple sets of grandparents. Finally “The Smiling Hour” connects Tanisi with one of her earliest inspirations, as the Brazilian song is probably best known for Sarah Vaughan’s gorgeous rendition.
Love’s Way Back is a new beginning, certainly, but it’s also the end result of a lifetime of personal growth and evolution for Clivia Tanisi. The meaning with which she imbues each song can only come from a reflection on the past and a positive outlook for the future. “I feel like I’m just reawakening,” she says. “Being able to do this has been more than a miracle. It’s magic.”