The love letter (not an emoticon or a tweet) can carry many messages.
I adore you. I wish you were mine. Thank you, my dear one. Come run away with me, my Prize! Why don’t you write to me? What happened? I have found another. Why did you break my heart? Will you come back to me? Remember our moments together? I miss you so.
Singer Marianne Solivan and pianist Michael Kanan know all about love — in human form and in the song. They’re not a couple, but it’s clear from the way they play that they have depths of emotion to share with us. The results are subtle and memorable. Marianne and Michael know music’s power to move us to tears and to make us feel lighter-than-air, as well as its tragicomic bitter-sweetness: when we hear a sad song and think, “Oh, that is so beautiful!” while we are feeling the sadness.
They are poets, improvising their poems as they go. They ask deep questions of us through music, and the answers they offer aren’t easy or monochromatic — each time we listen, the answers shift slightly in the light. They move through each song experimentally, considering it a new experience, testing its limits, sounding its depths.
Their art, at once strong and delicate, asks only that we give ourselves to it wholly — no multitasking, please. In admiration, I will stand out of its way, for it would be wrong to offer commentaries.
What follows is my video-recording of a spiritually intense evening at Michael’s Brooklyn studio, The Drawing Room (70 Willoughby Street). It was a privilege to be there and an honor to be allowed to share it with you.
Jerome Kern’s mournful IN LOVE IN VAIN, with a surprise concealed inside:
A joyous, sideways look at the Rodgers and Hart THERE’S A SMALL HOTEL: where is this hotel? We want to book rooms there, too:
I COVER THE WATERFRONT (with the lovely dark verse):
The wistful I CAN DREAM, CAN’T I?:
LET’S GET LOST:
I DON’T WANT TO CRY ANYMORE:
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT:
HAUNTED HEART (interpolating LOVE LETTERS):
Berlin’s magically buoyant ISN’T THIS A LOVELY DAY?
MORE THAN YOU KNOW:
BILLY STRAYHORN Medley (STAR-CROSSED LOVERS / A FLOWER IS A LOVESOME THING / PASSION FLOWER):
Theme music for timid arsonists: I DON’T WANT TO SET THE WORLD ON FIRE:
The wrenching I GUESS I’LL HANG MY TEARS OUT TO DRY:
Grammarians point out that I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU should correctly be I HAVE EYES ONLY FOR YOU, but grammarians don’t usually write memorable songs. I always think of this song in connection with Lester Young, who said of something he approved of that he had “big eyes for that”:
Berlin’s series of devoted questions to be addressed to the Beloved, HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN:
Michael and Marianne are both marvelously capable of emotional and artistic magic on their own. I have been publicizing the very moving events at The Drawing Room, and you can also visit Marianne’s website here. When you visit her site, you will hear the strains of Marianne and Michael exploring I WISH I KNEW — from Marianne’s new CD, PRISONER OF LOVE.
They will be appearing on April 19, 2012, at Smalls (183 West 10th Street, Greenwich Village, New York) from 10 PM to 12:30 AM, with bassist Marco Panascia and drummer Jerome Jennings.
For the love of music: love letters from Marianne and Michael, straight from their hearts.
May your happiness increase.