Abigail Riccards and Michael Kanan inspire awe and wonder.
I experienced this first-hand in a small Brooklyn studio last Sunday, June 12, 2011, and share the music with you here.
These two artists created music full of feeling but never “dramatic.” Each song had its own pliant shape, with unaffected casual intensity and splendor.
Abigail has a speaking directness. Her mobile voice arches into long tones and soaring phrases; she lives within the lyric and the melody she is singing. She makes each song full of small peaks of intelligence and emotion.
Hear, for instance, how she handles the words “drop a line” in Wilder’s I’LL BE AROUND. Her TOO LATE NOW is almost unbearably poignant yet it doesn’t whimper or carry on. Her approach is at once serious and joyous. BLUE SKIES cavorts.
And although these songs are not new — each one has powerful ghosts standing behind the curtain to upstage the living artists — Abigail takes her own small liberties and makes them work, turning IN LOVE IN VAIN (one of the saddest songs I know) into something a little more resilient, in the same fashion that Billie Holiday recreated TRAV’LIN’ ALL ALONE as her own nearly defiant statement.
Abigail’s singing touched everyone in the room: even in the videos here, you can feel their powerful quiet empathy and delight. I hear a great artistry.
Michael is a poet at the keyboard with none of the pretense some have brought to that role. I think often of Jimmy Rowles when he plays, and at times of the witty, pointed spareness of John Lewis. Like Abigail, he never overacts, never calls attention to himself in some look-at-me way, but you can’t help but pay attention — both to what he is creating and what trodden ways he is wisely avoiding.
His sound is lucent; his pauses are knowing and subtle; he is a master of light and shade and shadow. At its most serene and quiet, his playing is resonant.
The art of accompaniment might be the most arduous of endeavors, and Michael is the most generous of partners, sweetly creating just the right sound-shape to make the singer or players around him seem even better.
And these two artists create a delicate yet powerful musical world in duet — their playful energies complementing each other. They are gracious; they are polite; they don’t interrupt each other’s sentences, but together they make something wise and subtle and rich that wasn’t there a minute before.
They offer and enact deep calm and brave experiment.
LUCKY TO BE ME:
TOO LATE NOW:
YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO:
IN LOVE IN VAIN:
THE MORE I SEE YOU:
I’LL BE AROUND:
ALL THE WAY:
EV’RY TIME WE SAY GOOD-BYE:
Throughout this performance, I kept feeling it was an honor to be in the same room, a privilege to witness and record such art. I still do.