Two words seem to recur here, in titles and lyrics. They are “simple” and “light”, the latter as in illumination. They surface in A Simple Gift, Glowing, in the words to the title track and elsewhere – enough to establish a kind of theme and they are or suggest his cardinal virtues. The guitarist’s name is on the marquee but its singer Luisa Sobral who occupies the foreground, delivering songs of startling directness and emotional candor.
Ruggiero is a formidable songwriter above all, working in an unmistakable jazz vein but with an almost folkish strain. Sobral’s faintly husky, almost spoken delivery very quickly casts a spell. A Christmas Wish is lovely and well worth the reprise, winning the Whammy rosette for the most mournfully pretty Yuletide love song ever. It’s the title track again which delivers the sucker punch: “How do I write a simple song for you / that gives you all you’ve given me?” There’s nothing more to say.
Ruggiero doesn’t overdo the octaves or tripletty fills. He’s often a very quiet presence on his own record and it’s more often Rende who leads the accompaniment, bringing weight with organ against cello, spaciousness on piano, a shimmer from the Rhodes. In Grinch mode I might say I didn’t much like Broken Trail, but it grows with each return, a song whose awkwardness isn’t a problem, but its own subject. My Little One is an almost perfect record of it type, which is a type you don’t come across very often any more.
By Brian Morton (Jazz Journal 2012)