JAZZ LIVES readers will already know the work of pianist Michael Kanan — his deep sensitivity to his fellow musicians, his splendidly intuitive accompaniment, his whimsical paths, reminiscent of Jimmy Rowles and Nat Cole.
But the singer Marianne Solivan may be new to you, as she was to me before July 12, 2011, when she and Michael performed thirteen songs at Smalls in New York City.
The cosmos is full of people who sing, and then there are singers: people who have studied the melodies and lyrics so seriously that they have absorbed their messages . . . and then feel free to take risks, to play with what’s been given to them on the lead sheets. Marianne is playful in the best sense of the word. I don’t mean that she abandons the original contours and intent to go off on her own peregrinations, but you can hear, in a few notes, that she honors the music enough to know that if she takes chances, her byways may arrive at surprising places that would please the composer and lyricist.
She proceeds to experiment — gently and persuasively — with the words, the arc of melody, the emotions, with depth and freshness, making us feel the joy of the small hotel, the sorrow of hanging her tears out to dry, of finding love in vain, or asking for just the right squeeze from the loved one. Her delivery is witty yet heartfelt; her leaps land in the right places; her hesitations and rushes make perfect emotional and dramatic sense. Her embellishments and improvisations are that of a great horn player: they enhance rather than flatten. She is sincere but she doesn’t “act”; she lets the music take her in exultant ripples, while her phrases bubble up and out for us to savor.
And the interplay between Marianne and Michael is remarkable, unstudied but wise and full of feeling. Magic in a Greenwich Village basement on a hot July evening!
I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU:
THERE’S A SMALL HOTEL:
BEAUTIFUL MOONS AGO:
JUST SQUEEZE ME:
GUESS I’LL HANG MY TEARS OUT TO DRY:
ALL TOO SOON:
IN LOVE IN VAIN:
PRISONER OF LOVE:
I DON’T WANT TO SET THE WORLD ON FIRE:
Marianne has a new CD coming out in the fall: I look forward to it!