Midway through Marianne Solivan’s first song, the Beloved turned to me and whispered, “She inhabits her songs,” which I immediately took as a truth so self-evident that it deserved to be the title of this blogpost (copyright 2012 Lorna Sass).
We were celebrating at the second set of a jazz brunch at North Square (in the Washington Square Hotel, at the northeast corner of Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, New York City) with the constantly-energizing singer Marianne, guitarist Ethan Mann, and her long-time associate, bassist Dmitry Ishenko. (For the schedule of jazz brunches, click here.)
In the space of an hour, Marianne Solivan showed herself not only a great improvising actress — a brave musical creature making up deeply moving scripts as she goes along. producing and directing them as the rhythm rolls underneath her — but an elaborately gifted musical architect. Each song felt like a new room in a previously unvisited house, full of surprising angles and turns, bathed in shifting lights. Her creations felt absolutely authentic: there was no practiced effect, no planned-out “surprises,” but we felt as if we were hearing and watching someone simultaneously inventing and inhabiting expansive spaces.
Some of the magic came from her choice of repertoire — she makes familiar songs new through daring tempo choices (a racing I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE that shook some of the familiar affectionate dust from those familiar words and notes; a very slow HEART AND SOUL that showed off Loesser’s lyrics for the first time, rescuing that song from generations of amateur pounding duo-pianists). Some of her magic is in witty shifts of phrase, where expected clusters of words fall in places we don’t expect, elongated or compressed. In ALL OF NOTHING AT ALL, she took the “Please” that begins the bridge and stretched it out to dramatic length — making it a true heart-entreaty.
The highlights of her set were her reinvention of HEART AND SOUL at a tempo so slow that in other hands it would have come to a stop — making that song a painfully exultant exploration of love found — and a slow inquiry into Bobby Troup’s YOU’RE LOOKING AT ME, in which the singer takes “I’ve been such a fool — I can’t believe it,” to new heights . . . or new depths.
In all of her songs, Marianne was beautifully accompanied (in the most true sense of that word) by Ethan Mann, spinning out slightly lopsided-on-purpose single-note lines, and by bassist Ishenko, a fluid, flexible foundation of rhythm. It was an astonishing afternoon, but we expect no less from Marianne Solivan, a brave explorer jumping off into the unknown and spreading carpets out for herself and us to land on.
May your happiness increase.