EASY TO LOVE: MARIANNE SOLIVAN, MICHAEL KANAN, BARAK MORI, DAN ARAN at SMALLS (Sept.13, 2011)

Jazz isn’t meant to be timidly conventional music: the jazz that moves us has an essential sweetness but takes risks.  

The September 13, 2o11 performance at Smalls by singer Marianne Solivan, pianist Michael Kanan, bassist Barak Mori, and drummer Dan Aran is a living example.  The quartet’s repertoire wasn’t ostentatiously “experimental”: no odd time signatures or eccentric tempos, nothing self-consciously cerebral. 

But in every song these four musicians were doing their best to take the material on its own terms, as if no one had ever sung or played these songs before.  The chances they took came off — their daring and expertise was subtle improvisation of the highest order.  

If you haven’t heard Marianne Solivan sing before, prepare yourself for brave beauty — an open-hearted approach to each song, supported nobly by Michael Kanan, Barak Mori, and Dan Aran.

By now, I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU is familiar territory.  Without distorting its emotional center, Marianne and the trio made it new, bending phrases around bar lines, testing the waters:

The quartet performs the same levitation on THE MORE I SEE YOU:

GONE WITH THE WIND (a song I love) reached hew heights:

DAY IN, DAY OUT had a lovely bounce:

I’d never heard IF YOU GO (written by a French composer, the lyrics translated) but it held us transfixed:

A more hopeful approach to the eternal passions, LOVE WALKED IN:

Marianne told us that THE LONELY ONES was an Ellington song — a new discovery:

Cole Porter’s AFTER YOU, WHO? was full of emotion but without melodrama:

I’LL NEVER BE THE SAME is more than eighty years old, but its bittersweet message has never aged:

EASY TO LOVE — the best title for this music, this impassioned performance:

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