Tag Archives: intimacy

“THINKING WITH YOUR HEART”: GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, MICHAEL KANAN, PAT O’LEARY, and MICHAEL PETROSINO at THE DRAWING ROOM (April 1, 2012)

Photograph copyright 2012 by Mike Sergio

Singer Gabrielle Stravelli captured our hearts for good the other night at The Drawing Room, with her combination of absolute accuracy and total abandon.  She dove deep into the music, balancing tenderness and tough,  exuberant swing.  If she’s new to you, prepare to be uplifted; if you know Gabrielle’s work, this was an especially gratifying performance.

She was supported by three of the most subtle musicians I know.  I’ve already written in praise of the eloquent, subtle, surprising Michael Kanan and Pat O’Leary — but drummer Michael Petrosino was an absolute revelation: a true sound-painter, his every stroke and accent strong yet delicate, creating colors and textures that amazed and delighted us all.

Here are eleven marvels — a thrilling evening at The Drawing Room (70 Willoughby Street, Brooklyn, New York): thanks to Gabrielle, Michael, Pat, Michael, Stephanie, and a wonderfully attentive audience.

BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA:

DREAM DANCING:

COME RAIN OR COME SHINE:

SKYLARK:

SO WHAT / OH, BOY (a witty superimposition: Buddy Holly meets Miles Davis):

JOY SPRING (Clifford Brown, lyrics by Jon Hendricks):

INVITATION:

SPRING IS HERE in duet with Pat, a true highlight:

THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC:

I think Gabriell’s impromptu reading of BILL — in duet with Michael, who appropriately ventures into CAN’T HELP LOVIN’ THAT MAN — is a masterpiece of feeling:

DEVIL MAY CARE:

WE’LL BE TOGETHER AGAIN

Gabrielle Stravelli embodies intimacy, playfulness, joy in her music.  When she sings, it is a brave “thinking with your heart,” coming through her songs.

May your happiness increase.

LOVE LETTERS: MARIANNE SOLIVAN and MICHAEL KANAN at THE DRAWING ROOM (March 24, 2012)

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.

“DU HOLDE KUNST”: MICHAEL KANAN and PETER BERNSTEIN at THE DRAWING ROOM (Feb. 12, 2012)

Last Sunday, February 12, 2012, I was privileged to be one of a hushed audience witnessing deeply moving improvisations.  The explorations were created by pianist Michael Kanan and guitarist Peter Bernstein, and these duets took place at Michael’s new venue, “The Drawing Room,” 70 Willoughby Street, Brooklyn, New York.*

I don’t use “Du holde Kunst” — a phrase by Franz von Schober that begins Schubert’s “An die Musik” — “To (the Art) of Music” — lightly.  I knew “holde” as “holy,” although others translate it as “lovely,” “gracious,” “hallowed.”  The source material for the duo improvisations was clearly secular — themes by Van Heusen, Gershwin, Arlen, and others.  But it was clear from the first notes played by either man that we were in the presence of something far from the ordinary.  The audience heard it; you will too.

The music enacted a wonderful paradox: two individualists, each going his own way but intuitively connecting, commenting — creating a synergy that was more than simply adding one instrumental voice to another.  Peter and Michael both spun out clear, translucent lines — but their combination had an orchestral density, although never loud or overly assertive.

Although their approach was serious, even reverent, they are truly playful musicians — you will hear many in-jokes and commentaries, puckish exchanges that made audience members around me smile.

Hear, savor, admire.

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU

COME RAIN OR COME SHINE

EMBRACEABLE YOU

YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM

SOFTLY, AS IN A MORNING SUNRISE

WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?

*The Drawing Room is a large quiet airy room with a fine piano and breathing space.  Michael plans to have events like this one several times a month; the admission price was only $10; I found parking, and the subway stop is just a few hundred feet away.

BEAUTY IN THE CORNER: ROSSANO SPORTIELLO and NEAL MINER (Jan. 25, 2012)

Harold Ross, who edited THE NEW YORKER, once wrote, “Talent doesn’t care where it resides.”  I think of jazz improvisation as a secret beautiful art.  Although the players are happy to have a receptive audience, often the audience’s inattention matters not at all, for the players are creating something that we happen to eavesdrop on. 

This was the feeling that the Beloved and I had listening to pianist Rossano Sportiello and string bassist Neal Miner last Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, at Sofia’s Ristorante (211 West 46th Street).  I had originally entertained thoughts of going there as a civilian — an ordinary listener with nothing more complicated in his hands than his drink, but the music was so quietly eloquent that I started videotaping and then asked permission of Rossano and Neal when they took a breather.

Photograph by Lorna Sass. All rights reserved. Copyright 2012.

Listening to Rossano, one hears his delicate touch, his rhythms (romping or subtle), his orchestral sense of the piano balanced with crystal-clear lines, his unerring ear for what Coleman Hawkins called “the choice notes.”  And Neal Miner embodies swinging persuasiveness.  Bass players usually get less attention than people with shiny horns.  Understandable in a way: the bass is in the lowest register and it stands to the rear of the background.  But the horn players I know admire the shape and scope of Neal’s lines and would be delighted to have invented them. 

On some of these performances, the audience is somewhat interactive.  You’ll hear someone’s comment when Rossano began to play a dreamy Liszt piece, “What is this, classical music?”  Yes, sir.  Classical and classic in the best senses of the words.  And rather than be annoyed at the people who chatted while the music was being created, I would simply hope that they went home subliminally elated by the fine loving sounds.  Maybe, with luck, someone might think, “At that bar there’s really nice background music . . . ” 

Early in the evening, a breezy optimism prevailed — even in the face of current economic reality, as the duo swung into THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE:

A Basie improvisation on I GOT RHYTHM changes that began as JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE and then went its own merry ways:

Indecision was never so pleasantly propulsive as in this UNDECIDED:

And the unexpected high point of the two sets — Liszt’s CONSOLATION # 3 in Db . . . a sweet musing exploration . . . then Rossano took a breath and turned the corner with Neal — uptown — to STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY:

And this set concluded with Tadd Dameron’s GOOD BAIT:

Talent, taking up temporary residence on 46th Street.  Beauty in the corner.  Much to be thankful for.

SOULFUL CANDOR: MARIANNE SOLIVAN and MICHAEL KANAN at SMALLS (July 12, 2011)

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:

MOON RAY:

ALL TOO SOON:

TWISTED:

MY IDEAL:

IN LOVE IN VAIN:

PRISONER OF LOVE:

I DON’T WANT TO SET THE WORLD ON FIRE:

SIGNING OFF:

Marianne has a new CD coming out in the fall: I look forward to it!

SOMETHING TENDER: CHRIS MADSEN, JOE POLICASTRO, ANDY BROWN

We all need beauty in our lives. 

Here’s a wonderfully singing example of it — saxophonist Chris Madsen, string bassist Joe Policastro, and guitarist Andy Brown taking their time through STARDUST — recorded June 12, 2011, at an event for the Brookfield Jazz Society. 

Chris purrs; Andy chimes; Joe supports.  Each one has a story to tell, of stardust, of love, of hope and yearning.

And since we also need community and communities, let us enjoy this trio as a living example: how Joe so lovingly plays those deep resonant notes throughout, commenting, adding, urging, without saying “Pay attention to me!”  How Chris rumbles and sings harmonies behind Andy’s ringing lines; how the trio works as a gathering of generous individuals who have chosen to make something much larger than three.  What a serene world they create, on the stand, in the mirror, in our ears!

And let me praise Cheryl Fort, who created the video: I applaud her as a kindred soul who wants to present a moving picture of what the players created.  By her restraint, her seeming reluctance to interfere through “modern” actions that draw our attention from the music to the video, she is a collaborative creator.

I don’t think this could be improved on.  A deep admiring bow and thank-you to the four of you!  (And to those fellows, Hoagy and Ben and Blanton, off in space.)

You can hear more beautiful music, including the subtle singing of Petra Van Nuis — at Andy’s YouTube channel, http://www.youtube.com/user/stringdamper.

POETIC (The Second Set): MICHAEL KANAN, JOEL PRESS, SEAN SMITH, JOE HUNT (Smalls, May 13, 2011)

Michael Kanan, piano; Joel Press, tenor / soprano saxophone; Sean Smith, string bass; and Joe Hunt, drums, created a memorable first set at Smalls jazz club on May 13, 2011.

Happily for us, their sustained creativity lit up the second set as well.  The music was easy, thoughful, emotionally intense but never losing its cool.

Monk’s HACKENSACK:

YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO, with Michael’s lovely rubato reading of the verse:

I HEAR A RHAPSODY (which could stand as a title for my postings of this group):

SOPHISTICATED LADY — with a floating duet for tenor and piano:

and the closing RED TOP (in F):

Joel plans to be back in New York City from June 23d through July 7th.  And on the 7th, he will be playing duets at Smalls with the excellent pianist Spike Wilner.