Tag Archives: Jerome Jennings

HILARY GARDNER SINGS: “THE GREAT CITY”

The-Great-City

In a city full of stirring, individualistic jazz singers, I invite you to welcome Hilary Gardner to the great stage.

This isn’t to presume her a new discovery — hardly!  But her debut CD is powerful, vivid, and emotionally varied.

She can sing, in short.

If you go immediately here (her homepage), two things will catch your attention.  One is the praise of Hilary written by Twyla Tharp — someone who knows music deeply.  The other is the sound of Hilary singing AUTUMN IN NEW YORK.

Delve a little deeper into her homepage (click on “music”) and you can hear more.

What I hear in THE GREAT CITY is a singer in full command of her lovely vocal instrument.  Hilary has a mature awareness of the bonding and bending that goes on between singer, melody, and words.  She offers us no melodrama, no vocal acrobatics; she honors the notes and the syllables, but she is not constrained by them.

She has chosen to retell the stories that the songs embody, each song a different story.  I hear an elegant restraint lit from within by feeling and understanding.  Hilary is wise enough to let the song carry her, wise enough to have absorbed great singers and instrumentalists, but especially wise enough to be herself.  No Billie, no Betty, no Sarah, no . . . .

The CD is a ripe pleasure — each track its own vignette, so the listener never feels bored by sameness or startled by rough jumps of subject and mood.  Hilary’s range is broad: there are the beautiful AUTUMN IN NEW YORK (verse and two choruses), WHEN THE WORLD WAS YOUNG, a jaunty BROOKLYN BRIDGE, and a swaying YOU CAME A LONG WAY FROM ST. LOUIS.

But her imagination doesn’t limit itself to “the Classics of the Great American Songbook,” and she reaches for Leonard Cohen, Nellie McKay, Tom Waits, and Joni Mitchell, making this CD an appealing anthology of short tales.

Hilary also has a deep awareness of the music’s foundations — without turning the disc into a repertory project.  So her accompanists (and I mean that in the best sense of the word) include Tatum Greenblatt, trumpet; Jason Marshall, tenor saxophone, Jon Cowherd, organ; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Elias Bailey, string bass; Jerome Jennings, drums, and the invaluable Ehud Asherie, piano.  Often the prevailing mood is neo-Basie.  Could that be wrong?

It’s a wonderful debut from an artist who offers us a great deal.  And I predict she will continue to delight us.

If you live in the tri-state area, the news is even more exciting.  Hilary and Ehud will be performing in duet at Smalls (183 West 10th Street, Greenwich Village, New York) on Sunday, April 7, beginning at 7:30.  Details here.  I am looking forward to it . . . please leave a few seats for me in the front row!

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.