Steven Rossitto walks into a room and the room lights up, but it’s when he caresses a melody that the magic happens. There’s a maxim that all great singers sound like they’re telling the truth. Rossitto fits the bill. Now, with the release of his new self-titled EP, audiences will once again have a chance to be seduced by his unique vocal ability.
It’s the way Rossitto gets inside a tune that will stop you in your tracks. He’s twenty-two, from Melbourne, and boasts an innate gift to draw listeners into a song. Rossitto simply knows how to inhabit a melody and interpret a lyric. If you have a penchant for believing in past lives, it’d almost be fair to say his voice has seen a few.
Almost four years on since he recorded ‘Night and Day’ (Rossitto’s debut album released through the ABC music label in 2012), Rossitto’s voice is darker, richer, more finessed and his emotional interpretation still well beyond his years. Since releasing his debut album Rossitto has garnered himself an ARIA nomination for best jazz album of the year, performed at the prestigious ‘Tokyo Jazz Festival,’ including the legendary ‘Cotton Club,’ and attained over half a million fans worldwide through the power of YouTube and social media.
There is a stark contrast when listening to Rossitto’s latest recording compared with ‘Night & Day.’ For one, there is no fifty-piece orchestra or Big Band, just a simple five-piece with a small string section on two of the tracks. “I have gone it alone on this recording. There is no big record company with an endless budget, just me,” Rossitto replies when asked about this. Rossitto has previously been signed to several recording companies, including EMI/Capitol Records and JVC in Japan when he was sixteen years old. He adds, “I would love a huge orchestra but I don’t think it matters much if you have one or not. At the end of the day, I am more interested in connecting with the listener. The benefit of a smaller band is that you can be much more intimate and really focus on connecting with the songs. That’s what I want to hear when I listen to a recording of any genre, great interpretation but above all, emotion!”
His reputation, for the moment, may well be forged on his interpretations from the Great American Songbook, which is exactly what features on the new collection of tracks. “There are five tracks on the EP, all jazz standards. I spent a lot of time picking these tracks and working with my musical director, Gianni Turcio, to create unique arrangements of them. I tried to pick songs that I could really stamp my name on and create my own versions of. I didn’t want to copy anyone; rather I wanted to demonstrate the immense influence so many of these legendary singers and musicians have had on me through their music.”
Rossitto has also solicited the help of some of Australia’s best musicians and internationally acclaimed sound engineer and mixer, Michael Stavrou, a man who has recorded the likes of Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett, to name a few. The quality of the recording speaks for itself.
Standouts on the collection include "Summerwind", "How Deep is the Ocean" and Cole Porters "It's Alright With Me
So, how do you breathe new life into a tune that’s half a century old? Well, that’s the implicit genius of Steven Rossitto and, as you’ve already guessed, he isn’t like you or I.
When he walks into the aforementioned room he’s wearing a dark suit, a red tie and a large gold ring.
He drums his fingers on the table, offers a broad grin and let’s out a laugh. He likes to laugh. There’s a big personality to match the big voice. When he was a small boy, Rossitto’s parents took him to see Luciano Pavarotti’s Farewell Concert in Melbourne. Steven thinks back and say’s ‘It was like seeing a king’. That night unlocked something inside him.
“I don’t know an exact time when I started singing,” he considers, “but I always used to sing around the house and whenever we had family gatherings. It was just something natural for me.” It was around the time Rossitto was ten or eleven that he started thinking more seriously about it. “People were always encouraging me to have lessons; they thought I had a nice voice. Eventually I gave in.”
Thus began his ten-plus year relationship with vocal coach and mentor Cosimo Ciccone of The Ciccone Academy. “I wanted to be an opera singer, which was a bit difficult for an eleven year old,” he muses “Cosimo got me on to jazz, because at the time, my voice was at a very delicate stage developmentally, and jazz was a lot less physically demanding on my voice. It still didn’t stop me from trying to be like Pavarotti,” he laughs, “but I really started to love jazz just as much as I did opera. I hope to one day explore opera a bit more, but for the time being I’m enjoying jazz.”
Not from an overtly musical background, Rossitto is from a long line of Italian butchers.
“My dad’s a butcher,” he muses, “but they are all on my mum’s side of the family. My uncle’s a butcher, my grandfather’s a butcher. There are about five generations of butchers in my family. I don’t really come from a very musical family at all. There is no one in my immediate family that sings or plays a musical instrument. The only exception is my grandfather; he loves music and there are a few professional and amateur musicians and singers on his side of the family, but they are all distant relatives that I have never met.”.
Part of a new generation, Rossitto was initially tuned on to the standards by Michael Buble. His first gig was singing “Moondance” at a family wedding. Subsequently he has done his own digging and unearthed the majesty of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, and Ella Fitzgerald. He’s trawled the secondhand stores to find the vinyl albums that clutter his bedroom; they sit alongside the biographies from a bygone era that he’s devoured and keep witness as he marks up the hours devoted to further exploration online.
It’s all part of a process that has led to another remarkable collection of recordings. Essentially everything comes back to that twenty-four-carat voice.
“You know I haven’t really thought about it,” he says when asked why he thinks his voice connects with people. “I just love to sing and I suppose that comes across.”
Therein lies the magic of Steven Rossitto.