Drummer Lenny White, a legend in his own right, sets things in motion for a legend to be born. “I’m always looking for new artists who have knowledge and respect of tradition but free spirited enough not to look at me crazy when I ask them to change it,” he says of his discovery. Introducing Letizia Gambi (Jando Music, 2012) is the U.S. debut of an Italian-born songstress and student of White.

Among the plethora of musicians who help make this debut recording work are several jazz heavyweights, including White, bassist Ron Carter, pianist Patrice Rushen, saxophonist Gato Barbieri, pianist Gil Goldstein and trumpeter Wallace Roney. Chick Corea, White’s partner with Return to Forever, also makes an appearance.

Gambi’s rich, earthy voice soothes on the ballad, “Secret Tears (Una Furtiva Lagrima),” an aria from the Italian opera L’eslir d’amore. She’s accompanied by White, Max Ionata on soprano sax, Antonio Farao on piano and Dario Rosciglione on bass. Though it’s from an opera, this arrangement is old-school jazz.

Rushen, cellist Jisoo Ook, Hector Del Curto on bandoneon, two background vocalists and a five-piece string section step in for the Italian classic, “O Sole Mio.” This slow, tranquil arrangement brings out the romantic in Gambi. Nick Moroch brings some nice guitar fills.

“The Love of Your Life,” one of three original songs co-written by Gambi and White, features the strings, Moroch, Goldstein, Del Curto and bassist Dave Finch. Gambi pours plenty of emotion into this one.

White has made a fine discovery. Gambi’s voice, combined with the selection of music and performance of the musicians make this a fabulous introduction.