Reviews for Lessons Learned
Judi’s compositions are like her paintings – Magical! – Sheila Jordan, NEA Jazz Master
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My Dance came as a surprise to longtime followers of singer Judi Silvano in 2014. More than the fact that her only accompaniment was pianist Michael Abene (of WDR Big Band fame) was that Silvano was performing exclusively original material. Although Silvano had included original songs on previous releases, familiar standards were often used as vehicles for improvisation. Silvano the composer takes center stage once more with Lessons Learned.
The vocalist uses a full band to bring her material to life: Kenny Wessel (guitar), Bruce Arnold (processed guitar), Adam Kolker (bass clarinet, tenor and soprano saxophones), Ratzo B. Harris (bass) Bob Meyer (drums) and Todd Isler (percussion). Silvano’s husband Joe Lovano, who produced the session, is featured on tenor saxophone for two selections: the probing, 11-minute “Riding a Zephyr” and noir-ish “Dust”, which hints at the music of Ethiopia and Mali.
The singer’s more abstract side asserts itself on the funky yet angular “The Music’s in My Body” and “Dark Things”, which employs a choppy, punk-ish beat. This is a consistently introspective album and the latter tune finds Silvano examining some darker thoughts.
But more often than not, Lessons Learned has an optimistic outlook; Silvano is definitely seeing the glass as half-full on contemplative offerings such as “Hand and Heart”, “You Will Know”, “Round and Round” and “Castle Song”. “Shuffle and Sway” has the feeling of an African-American spiritual, recalling some of Abbey Lincoln’s collaborations with Max Roach. The defiant, soulful tune is about demanding positive changes in one’s life and letting go of negative things that aren’t working.
Silvano achieves a healthy balance of the melodic and the cerebral. Many jazz vocalists shy away from composing original material, but Silvano is not one of them. She is as skillful a writer as she is a singer and Lessons Learned, like My Dance four years ago, is a fine product of both. – Alex Henderson, NYC Jazz Record, November 2018
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Once again, the jazz vocalist finds that sweet spot between art chick and hard core pro as she delivers a real personal album assessing where she is in life now. Lyrically loaded with lessons all should really be thinking about, this is a Zen jazz set that’s sure to resonate with the current crop of seekers that are trying to take pause and figure the rest of it all out. – Chris Spector, August 2018, Midwest Record Review
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Judi Silvano is a universal artist in a special class. She is a musician, singer, lyricist, dancer and painter. With “Lessons Learned” she surprises us with a graceful pop-jazz sound with multiple effects. First, the messages of some of her songs cheer up her fellow human beings, pushing for the positive. Her poems are expressed in catchy melodies which are broadened by the top jazz players she has in her octet. She has been married to an absolute superstar on the tenor saxophone, Joe Lovano, so asked him to produce this album and he helped his wife to realize these songs which have influences of folk, spiritual or Latin styles. For instance, “After Love” features Adam Kolker (bcl, ss, ts), who worked for years with the famous conguero Ray Barretto. Also, there are 2 guitarists in the band, Kenny Wessel and Bruce Arnold which is a really special thing about this CD. Wessel, who played in the ensemble of Ornette Coleman, and Bruce Arnold, who plays jazz and interprets contemporary classical music, collaborate well together, which generates an exceptional sound. The rhythm is provided by the trio Bob Meyer (dr), Todd Isler (perc) and Ratzo B. Harris (b). Judi Silvano herself has presented jazz with poetry in several projects, has recorded classic songs with unusual ensembles and has founded several successful vocal ensembles. Again and again, Silvano breaks out of the well-established waters of vocal jazz. On her new CD “Lessons Learned” Judi Silvano erupts once again through the civilized channel of pop-jazz with some thoughtful and lyrical Songs and lets her Zephyr band, including Joe Lovano on “Dust” and “Riding a Zephyr”, improvise wildly through the studio. – Concerto Magazine, November 2018, ewei
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Lessons Learned is an apt title for the 14th album by Judi Silvano, a vocalist and composer who draws from a wide range of experience. Her Zephyr Band — named after an early-2000s album she made with pianist Mal Waldron — has Kenny Wessel and Bruce Arnold on guitars; Adam Kolker on bass clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophone; Ratzo B. Harris on bass; and Bob Meyer and Todd Isler on drums. The album, recently released on Unit Records, consists entirely of Silvano’s compositions, some of them sharp and spiky (“Dark Things”) and others full of wonder (“Round and Round”). One subtle high point is a ballad titled “Hand and Heart,” which would seem to be a nod to her spouse, saxophonist Joe Lovano, who produced the album. “When you go into the wide world,” Silvano sings, “I feel you pulling me too. / You build fires all around you / I am standing there beside you / Holding the glow.” (Silvano and the Zephyr Band will perform an album-release celebration at her regular haunt, Cornelia Street Café, this coming Sunday.) – Nate Chinen, WBGO.org
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CD Review by Eric Alan – Judi Silvano & The Zephyr Band Lessons Learned (2018)
You know reviewing this album has taken me weeks to do because it has moved my thoughts and memories in countless directions. Judi Silvano’s words awaken so much of a life lived. I felt the need to listen to her very thought provoking lyrics extremely carefully. The album has become somewhat of an intense catharsis on a personal level whilst listening intently. All I can say is I like the album and it has now become a permanent fixture on my iPhones playlist. – Eric Alan, AllJazzRadio, Capetown South Africa
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The American jazz singer Judi Silvano has such luminaries as the guitarist Kenny Wessel, the bass clarinetist Adam Kolker and tenor Master Joe Lovano who also produced the album of her Zephyr Band. You can therefore assume that she has a formidable reputation on the scene. In sometimes sprawling pieces (“Riding A Zephyr” takes about twelve minutes), Silvano shows her world views with a playful openness reflected in pastel shimmering soundscapes that are created by two guitarists of which the second is Bruce Arnold. Silvano sounds affectionate and spiritual on some of her songs while in others she exhibits a wild abandon. Seldom have we heard a singer being so open and direct, not imitating other singers but singing in her own style. Her voice has an honest and very authentic sound, not spoiled by academic rigidness in spite of many complex passages in her very expressive music.
– Text Rolf Thomas, Jazz thing 125 (Germany)
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Reviews for Listen to This
“Listen to This” is some beautiful, cosmic music created by two of the most inventive musicians on the scene today”. – Joe Lovano, Grammy Winner and Berklee College Performance Chair
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From the get-go “Listen to This” will shock jazz purists with the spacey effects on Arnold’s axe and the electronically harmonized multiple Silvano voices. But vocalist Judi Silvano’s phrasing, inflections, and improvisatory reactions and guitarist Bruce Arnold’s lush harmonies definitely reveal jazz’s genetic imprint.
The definitive breakdown of musical categorization was delivered in 1962 by Duke Ellington: “There are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind.” File this album in the Good Music section.
– Steve Holtje, manager, ESP-Disk
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Judi Silvano and Bruce Arnold have created their own world of altered guitar and vocal sounds. I really like the opening song, “Remembrances”, an otherworldly blues with Judi’s hip-notic vocals harmonized with subtle alien effects. It’s a sort of fairy-tale vibe, rather like a distant relative to J.A.’s “White Rabbit”. Ms. Silvano sounds a bit like Iva Bittova on the aptly titled “Space Lullaby”, charming and child-like at times. On “My Neighborhood” Mr. Arnold does a great job of providing sumptuous sonic soundscapes without playing any predictable single note jazz solos; his guitar sounds like an army of chanting monks as he plays those dark floating chords in the background.
Whatever you do, you got to check out this one: “Great Plains”. There is something special going on here, completely enchanting with that great sly groove. This is followed by “Journey To Be Free”, another stunner with a rocking groove but no rhythm team. Just the guitar and voice.
I didn’t expect this disc to be the most surprising gem of the month, but that it what it is.
– Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
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“Brilliant. Love it; almost a Kraftwerk twist to it.” – Rob Taylor nmblive.com
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Judi Silvano & Bruce Arnold’s intuitive jazz guitar/vocal duo – LISTEN TO THIS:
There’s one cardinal rule you must not forget, whether you’re a listener, or a listener who also reviews… be SURE you don’t allow any preconceptions to get in the way of your listening progress… I’ve reviewed Judi’s excellent vocal work many times in the past and Bruce’s guitar work is quite simply the stuff of legend around my review studio… If you check out earlier samples of these two musicians’ recordings, you’ll realize that what they are doing together is (significantly) different. On exploratory works like the oddly titled “Cats Are Watching”, the electronic effects used together with Judi’s scat just WAKE your spirit UP… I just LOVED this tune!…
They move back to somewhat more familiar territory on “Complete Embrace” (Silvano’s tune) but with Bruce’s crispy little “bells” and superb synth sounds that compliment Judi’s silky smooth vocal very nicely… The tune clocks in at a full 9:35, so that gives them more than enough room to explore each others’ creative genius… This is a relatively simple tune that will transport you (by the end-note) to symphonic (and hallucinatory) bliss!
The title track, “Listen To This”, is short (2:43), but there’s no doubt you’ll be flashing back to territory you thought you’d long left behind… if you’re like me, you’ll be hitting the replay button often on this one.
It is the (almost) “spoken-word” cut, “Journey To Be Free”, that (easily) gets my vote for personal favorite of the dozen sonic adventures offered up, though. Hearing the transition from “out there” to “completely clear” on this tune will… help you realize that “different” is often “better”.
I give this totally-talented duo a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this superbly performed set of adventurous music. Get more information at www.Muse-Eek.com/Judi-Silvano-
– Dick Metcalf, editor, Contemporary Fusion Reviews
Reviews for My Dance
This is a great record by the American singer Judi Silvano, in a similarly minimal ensemble of her previous Indigo Moods trio recording. To accompany her in a kind of chamber jazz approach, is pianist Michael Abene who is rather known in the field of teaching and production. (For the last decade he has been the director of the WDR Big Band of Cologne in Germany and still teaches at KUG Jazz Institut Graz in Austria.) The two set to work to illustrate what is the “Songbook of Silvano”: this time there are no standards on the disc. It is the vision of life and love of the singer. She tells the stories in words in Make It in Classic, It’s So Amazing, Bougainvillea and Our World, while elsewhere uses only her vocal tones, leaving the listener to imagine the rest.
These two musicians are navigating together and you notice clearly what they offer each other in the chord progressions of Abene or the melodies of the singer. Her voice is so clear and inventing something all time: the art of improvisation in its essence. The rhythms used are those of jazz, including a samba imagined and blues, which is always at the base of this music. Highlights are Kokopelli’s Dance, Calypso and the final Echo Cardio, made of notes that fade amid the ethereal voice of the singer. You realize as you arrive to the end that you have listened to a brave disc, which in its minimalist essence proposes what is really jazz: two artists of great skill improvising on their instruments and while making music are really telling their stories.
—Vittorio Lo Conte (musiczoom.it)
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MY DANCE, the newest album by American Jazz Vocalist Judi Silvano, is the eleventh in her discography and entirely devoted to her own music and lyrics in a duo performance. Judi’s voice, like an exotic butterfly, soars with the melodic line and merges with it. The word “dance” in the title is clearly not accidental, as the movement of her voice is a fascinating dance and in the lyrics to “Make it a Classic” she recalls writers, composers and dancers alike. The voice and talent of Judi Silvano is part of the beauty of her surroundings that she describes in “Our World”.
—Leonid Auskern, (Jazz-square Russia, jazzquad.ru)
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In 1950, Ella Fitzgerald and Ellis Larkins set a very high bar for vocal-piano duets. They explored Gershwin standards with the emphasis on ballads. Fitzgerald created heartfelt interpretations of the lyrics, while Larkins was tasteful and very supportive as an accompanist. The result was haunting and definitive renditions of gems.
My Dance, a duet project by Judi Silvano and pianist Michael Abene, is a bit different. Rather than standards, they explore 11 of Silvano’s compositions, seven of which do not have lyrics. The music is not dominated by ballads, and the two artists are very much equals. Abene’s playing regularly challenges the singer, pushing her to stretch herself, particularly rhythmically. Fortunately, Silvano has the vocal chops and imagination to make this challenging program succeed.
Starting with “Dust,” which finds her improvising off of a piano riff, she is able to create a steady stream of colorful ideas. Some of her wordless pieces, particularly the catchy “My Dance” and the soulful “KoKopelli’s Dance,” deserve lyrics that would permit them to catch on as future standards. Abene is consistently inventive and unpredictable. He never feels compelled to merely state the melody or chords, and one imagines that there are stretches where he not only kept listeners guessing but Silvano guessing, too. All in all, this is an intriguing set.
—–Scott Yanow, DownBeat Magazine
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Judi Silvano is a singer whose work I have enjoyed for many years. Her 11th album as a leader, “My Dance” (on JSL Records) confirms that her vocal powers are intact and her imagination as free as ever. She is one of those singers who can animate an old pop song or even cross over into classical music. But, she has always been an adventurous improviser and remains one on her new CD.
Silvano wrote all of the compositions, four have lyrics (which she also penned) and the others are wordless.
“My Dance” is a duo album. All the piano work is by Mike Abene. He has a two-handed style and it would be wrong to consider him an accompanist. He is an equal collaborator. Silvano shows that her approach is just as free on her own pieces as when she is singing the Great American Songbook.
If someone could tame “It’s So Amazing,” it could be a pop hit. Her “Calypso” is wilder than anything Harry Belafonte recorded. “Kokopelli’s Dance” is infectious with a Sarah Vaughan feel while “Echo Cardio” manages to be moving even without language.
Judi Silvano will hold a CD release show for “My Dance” with Mike Abene on Thursday, February 26th at Jazz At Kitano (66 Park Ave. at East 38th St.; (212) 885-7119; http://kitano.com). Shows at 8 pm and 10 pm and there is a $20 cover, $15 minimum drink and food per person, per set. If you miss that gig, Silvano and Abene will be at Cornelia Street Café (29 Cornelia Street; (212) 989-9319) on March 30th. Music sets at 8:45 and 9:45 pm.
—-By Barry Bassis (www.theepochtimes.com)
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Judi Silvano’s January release, My Dance is a joint effort with pianist Michael Abene, and the album showcases 11 original Silvano compositions. My Dance is an album uninterested in reinterpreting classic tropes or even reimagining them. My Dance is interested in creating something new with a sound all its own, and even a cursory hearing of the disc’s opener, a track she calls “Dust,” makes it clear she has done just that. From Abene’s piano opening, through Silvano’s vocalise/scat, the album’s direction is set.
Her songs are spare. As often as not they communicate more meaningfully without words than they do with them. Silvano may come close to something conventional as in “It’s So Amazing,” but it is when she is most creative that she is at her best.
This is music that makes some demands on listeners, much the way the best jazz artists have always done. Those willing to give it a chance will find it worth their while; those unwilling will be missing out on something truly original.
—-Jack Goodstein (blogcritics.org)
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Across a kaleidoscopic recording career that recently entered its third decade, vocalist Judi Silvano has worked with pianoless groups, all-female outfits, a vocal ensemble performing a cappella, and even crafted, with husband Joe Lovano, an album of music intended to enhance hypno-massage. Through it all, she has only once recorded with just piano. That was a dozen years ago, for the superlative RIDING A ZEPHYR, showcasing Silvano alongside Mal Waldron.
For this sophomore duo set, which features solely original material, Silvano reunites with Mike Abene, her pianist from 2004’s LET YOURSELF GO. Abene opens the 11-track session with thunderstorm force, jagged and threatening, before setting into choppy waves to support Silvano’s angular “Dust.” It is the first of the album’s six wordless selections, each deftly mapped by Abene. Silvano’s longstanding mastery of that tricky art is shown to maximum advantage, extending from the metronomic drone of “F Minfor” to the exultant “Kokopelli’s Dance” and joyous “Calypso.”
When Silvano opts to sing actual lyrics the results are just as exhilarating: the ghostly naturalism of “Our World (Bass Space)”: the swirling intoxication of “It’s So Amazing”; the list-song finesse of “Make It a Classic,” it’s wide-ranging references to artistic hewaroees placing Van Gogh, Edgar Allan Poe and Shakespeare shoulder-to-shoulder with Ellington and Monk.
—-Christopher Loudon (JazzTimes Magazine)
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Vocalist Judi Silvano has always looked for the most creative atmospheres in which to use her voice, best known for her work with Joe Lovano on Rush Hour a number of years ago, she uses her creative spirit in a variety of settings. This time out, she teams up with Michael Abene on piano, who has a touch himself similar to the dark and deep sounds of Mal Waldron; together the two make a lasting impression.
All of the material is Silvanos, sometimes with lyrics, at other times with wordless vocals. Without words, she can create exotic moods as on the mood tepia toned “Dust’ or the rhythmic Brazilian joys “My Dance” and “Samba 33.” The angular and Monkian “Make it a Classic” has Abene using single notes for the melody and rhythm, while he creates a rich and chocolate texture underneath Silvano’s lyrics on “ Bougainvillea.” His fingers gently rollick like an old time strider without the stride on “Kokopelli’s Dance” and all the while Silvano is both accessible to the ears yet slowly pushing to the outside. The tensile acoustics between the two make for intimate yet vibrant atmospheres.
—George Harris (jazzweekly.com)
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Compared with her last Trio album INDIGO MOODS released in 2012, Judi Silvano’s new album MY DANCE has been stripped down to just voice and piano. Ms. Silvano is able to take greater risks with her voice, making lines like pearly gossamer. She shows that she is up to the task, making sure that each note counts—each sound and each syllable as well. It is as if the singer were also inventing a new language here, or at least purging the old one that she learned as a child. Replacing words with sounds can also become retrograde. Guarding against this Ms. Silvano makes a series of left turns so to speak where she propels her songs into musical alleyways that are unusual, but then she also turns this adventure into one of great discovery. So life altering is this album that it is hard to imagine where Judi Silvano will take her artistry next.
—Raul da Gama (jazzdagama.com)
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Veteran singer and composer Judi Silvano partners with pianist Michael Abene to record eleven of her original tunes. They are stories of love, life and experiences packed with creativity. Judi started her career in entertainment a modern dancer. That spirit carried over to her musical career where she improvises scatting and experimenting with different vocal patterns. Abene hugs every move in a well-coordinated effort.
—D. Oscar Groomes , (http://www.OsPlaceJazz.com)
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Praise for Indigo Moods
Judi Silvano’s vocal capabilities have been known for some time, tested in a myriad of contexts that have proven her versatility. “Indigo Moods” is her 10th album as the Leader and she works in a minimalist environment together with pianist Peter Tomlinson offering the harmonic context and the trumpeter Fred Jacobs contributing colors and expressive notes. There are many verses to these standards which do not fail to surprise us.
In the lineup are very famous songs and because they are so well known it is difficult to reproduce them, especially in a situation in which the singer is the center of attention and there is little or nothing to hide behind. Silvano is, as usual, present with her great voice offering us exciting interpretation, perfect pronunciation, her great sense of rhythm, swing and everything in short that makes a singer a great singer.
Every song has a special story behind it, on which Silvano stretches out with her own interpretation as if it was the final one. So when you listen you will forget past versions of these songs as Silvano brings them to you fully anchored in the present for Judi Silvano is moving these standards into the future.
—Di Vittorio Lo Conte, AllAboutJazz Italy
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To hear a singer sing without a net like Judi Silvano does on her Indigo Moods is to invite an intimacy that ought to be germane to the art of singing ballads and torch songs. Channeling the spirits of Rosemary Clooney and Ella Fitzgerald, Silvano takes her own path in the end, sidling up to trumpeter Fred Jacobs and pianist Peter Tomlinson for 14 standards that stay pretty much in a 20th-century time frame.
Silvano’s slight vibrato is most expressive on the slower tunes, like Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now,” where the gait of the other players and the singer’s phrasing suggest as to why these three may have put this music together in the first place. While their take on Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” eventually seems to drag, it’s still filled with obvious sincerity. And Billy Strayhorn’s “A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing” reminds us how the song will always be revisited by artists patient and desirous enough to mine its immense colors and moods. That’s a lot to realize in a singer, even a veteran like Silvano, who, no doubt, sings this song a tad differently than she did when she was 20 years younger.
That’s not to say the upbeat numbers don’t communicate. Irving Berlin’s “It Only Happens When I Dance With You,” an unconventional inclusion, does have that bounce, Silvano’s movements with Tomlinson suggesting a real dance on the floor. And Antonio Jobim’s “If You Never Come To Me” provides a window into Silvano’s scat sensibilities along with perhaps the best example of this trio playing as one. Ending this set with two lovelorn melodies — a reinvention of Thelonious Monk’s “Ugly Beauty” with lyrics for “Still We Dream” and the short, sweet duet with Jacobs on “I’ll Be Seeing You” — proffer the kind of simple delight in a song that seems rare, indeed.
— John Ephland, Downbeat
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It’s been seven years since Judi Silvano served up an all-standards platter. And though intermediary projects included her stellar teaming with Mal Waldron on Riding a Zephyr and the fine salute to female songwriters and musicians Women’s Work, it’s great to hear her take-no-prisoners approach applied to a fresh baker’s dozen of sturdy chestnuts. On this 10th album in 20 years, Silvano leaves delicacy and coyness to lesser songbirds, tackling these tunes with the might and finesse of a world-class boxer. Those not used to such sugar-free directness might at first find her a little off-putting; closer listening will reveal a depth of emotional honesty and perceptiveness that few can match.
Working with her regular trio mates, pianist Peter Tomlinson and trumpeter Fred Jacobs, Silvano remains true to the album’s title across a refreshingly forthright “You’ve Changed,” a multihued “If You Could See Me Now” and a stark “You Don’t Know What Love Is” that is a brilliant exercise in naked despair. Even selections traditionally given sunnier readings—“But Beautiful,” “If I Had You,” “It Only Happens When I Dance With You,” “Let’s Fall in Love”—are tempered with caution, their lyrical hopefulness undercut by loneliness lurking at their edges. Particularly arresting is her restless meander through a densely fogged “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing,” teetering between dream and nightmare. And there is a 14th track that, straying slightly from the Great American Songbook, finds Silvano swirling through a funhouse—or madhouse, or perhaps both—constructed of Monk’s “Still We Dream.”
— Christopher Loudon, Jazz Times
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Judi Silvano sings these well-chosen standards superbly! We hear a voice extremely reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald in her later period, and this comparison pertains not just to vocal timbre, but to articulation and interpretation of the music as well.
After receiving a degree in classical music and dance from Temple University in Philadelphia, Silvano came to New York City and studied jazz singing with Jeanne Lee and Sheila Jordan. She is often compared to Norwegian singer Karin Krog and is known widely for her contributions to the albums of her husband, Joe Lovano, where she sings in an instrumental manner.
On her recent CD, “Indigo Moods,” she gracefully negates all that this might imply, showing that she can also deliver lyrics with maturity. The influence of Abbey Lincoln and her music led Silvano to record Lincoln’s song, Not To Worry, as part of her “Women’s Work” CD and to study and focus on “telling the story” of a song. She has reached a new level of expression.
The musicians accompanying Judi Silvano here on “Indigo Moods” are pianist Peter Tomlinson and trumpeter Fred Jacobs, and together they create a highly sensitive trio who feel like fish in pure water in this aesthetic zone.
—Jazz Forum / Poland jazzforum.com.pl
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Vocalist Judi Silvano celebrates 20 years of jazz recording with the release of Indigo Moods on the Jazzed Media label. After recording in a variety of formats, with and without husband and tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, Silvano lands here with a collection of standards that features pianist Peter Tomlinson providing the harmonic guidance and trumpeter Fred Jacobs adding the color. Such an intimate environment provides maximum artistic exposure for vocalists, and only the most experienced singers can not only withstand such exposure, but turn it to their benefit. Silvano does exactly both with grace and poise.
Silvano makes this an intensely personal project, permeating the music with her experience, artistry and courage. “Skylark” is almost idiosyncratic with her approach and phrasing, as is the final verse of Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo.” Silvano bends notes to cry uncle, creating a harmonic tension and release that is the bread and butter of only the best singers. Like tenor saxophonist John Coltrane’s tone, Silvano’s voice is not so much pretty as commanding and sublime. It is one that cannot be ignored.
If Indigo Moods has a center of gravity, it is Tadd Dameron’s exquisite ballad, “If You Could See Me Now.” The divine chemistry between Silvano, Tomlinson and Jacobs is transparent to the quantum-level point, giving an aural glimpse of what makes the craft of jazz vocals such a special subset of the overall genre. Jacobs plays muted, giving an organic reading of the accompaniment flourishes that give vocal recitals their deep hues and tones. Silvano captures all of the melancholy of love lost, deeply etched with her singing experience. These are the qualities that make this recording so exceptional. This is experienced singing sung well.
— C. Michael Bailey, AllAboutJazz.com
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Name sound familiar? It should. Judi Silvano celebrates her 20th Anniversary of her recording career with the release of her tenth recording, Indigo Moods. A slight departure for Silvano has a release full of popular jazz standards but dialed back to a more intimate somewhat organic presentation. Working with a trio for a jazz singer can be the equivalent of high wire act working without a net as one mistake can spell certain disaster for the less experienced vocalist.
Just to make things interesting, Silvano opts for a different trio format with Peter Tomlinson on piano and Fred Jacobs on trumpet and the resulting dynamic seemingly reinvents each tune allowing Silvano the unique opportunity to place her own indelible mark on each number. The standard trio with vocals by it’s very nature turns into a soloist with two accompanists i.e. the rhythm section. Peter Tomlinson and Fred Jacobs both contribute their own voicing in such a way as to blend for a richer dynamic. “Skylark” the Hoagy Carmichael/Johnny Mercer classic takes the melodic yet melancholy route with Jacobs trumpet fills. Silvano’s vocals are spot on and Tomlinson’s piano fill in the complete musical picture with style and elegance. “Let’s Fall In Love” while dialed back never loses the infectious swing with Silvano’s articulation and Tomlinson’s bright and breezy work on the piano bench. “Embraceable You” is kicked off with the rhythmic movement before the lyrics start again providing an interesting if not whimsical dynamic to this set of timeless standards.
Indigo Moods is a solid and dynamic offering by perhaps the most unique vocal trio you will hear but their chemistry and melodic re-invention of some iconic standards are as adventurous and inventive as any arrangements you may come across.
— Brent Black, CriticalJazz.com
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So what makes this album of great American songbag chestnuts different from all the other ones out there? Could it be that Silvano is in front of only a piano and trumpet? Nah. Silvano is in touch with something here. She takes these songs back to the clip joints from where they originally got traction, but she’s not emulating the chanteuses at the better clip joints. She’s channeling the broads belting it out at the dive bars with all the vulnerability, pain and edge of a nervous breakdown energy that bisexual, single moms with drug habits could muster back in the day. Cinematic in way’s you can’t even imagine, you might never hear these well worn songs in the same way again. All that’s missing is the intro where she details how this song is going out to that someone special, the one that knows who they are even if they couldn’t be with us tonight. Whew.
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Judi Silvano is not only one of the most adventurous vocalists in modern jazz, she may also be one of the least predictable. Which of course is a major ingredient in “adventurous” art of any sort. Having detoured from her more typical avant garde bent in 2005 with Let Yourself Go (Zoho Music), she took another turn in 2007 in celebration of Women’s Work (JSL Records) —compositions by the often under-rated women who have nevertheless made their marks on a genre dominated by men. Back in her more daring realm in 2008, she (finally) released Cleome: Lives Takes, recorded in 1999-2000 with her chordless cohorts (George Garzone, Michael Formanek and Gerry Hemingway). There’s been a bit of a lull between recording projects, but the wait is over and, of course, things are not the way they used to be. On Indigo Moods, Judi takes a set of familiar songs and brands them with her unique interpretive style, all the more removed from the usual presentation by her choice of the deceptively simple backing of piano (Peter Tomlinson) and trumpet (Fred Jacobs).
Judi explains in her liner note that “Indigo Moodsis the flowering of my love affair with life… the integration of these vast influences [the art traditions of her native Philadelphia, her life in New York and world travels] with my own inquisitive nature and years of living in the music… These well-known songs…express life’s beauty and struggles.” The set list includes fourteen songs from diverse but popular sources, from Ellington to Tadd Dameron to Monk and Gershwin, but, coming from Judi and the pairing of piano and trumpet, it’s a new day for each tune.
From the first verse of the majestically paced opening “Mood Indigo,” the genius of the instrumentation is apparent, the piano serving as the primary foil for Judi’s voice, trumpet providing counterpoint and solo breaks that lead Judi into more experimental territory, as if a second horn. And who says modern jazz can’ swing? Piano and trumpet team up on “You’ve Changed” to give Judi loosely constructed guideposts, but each of the three musicians takes his or her own route through the song. Tomlinson stays just slightly behind Judi on “Skylark,” Jacobs offering glowing commentary.
With just piano, “Let’s Fall in Love” swings in a slightly off-center fashion, just enough to keep ears on alert while feet keep tapping all the way through. Judi carries the melody nearly a cappella on “But Beautiful” as her cohorts abstractly trace the chords, yielding elegant results. “If I Had You” is relaxed and swinging, embellished by the slightly sassy tone of Jacob’s trumpet and Judi’s easygoing scat.
The trio stretches out a bit on a tastefully voiced interpretation of Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now,” while Irving Berlin’s “It Only Happens When I Dance With You” is given a brief, swaying reading as a slightly dissonant piano/voice duet. Jacobs opens “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing,” his mournful trumpet paving the way for Judi’s tender phrasing. Moving south of the border, the trio tackles Jobim’s “If You Never Come to Me,” highlighted by Judi’s scatting duel with Jacobs, like two horns dancing around each other while Tomlinson provides a gently breezy interlude. The Silvano/Jacobs pairing also highlights “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” Judi wrapping the lyrics around Fred’s bluesy commentary, Tomlinson a subdued but critical partner in propelling the song forward.
Few songs are covered as often as Gershwin’s “Embraceable You,” but seldom with this degree of originality as Judi creates a bossa-tinged arrangement in which the English lyrics take on a scat quality. The interplay of the trio here has as many charms as the song itself. “Still We Dream,” on the other hand, is covered far too infrequently. Mike Ferro’s lyricized version of Monk’s “Ugly Betty” naturally lends itself to some experimentation, and the Silvano/Tomlinson duo offer an engaging blend of minimalism and lyrical abstraction. The set closes with a relatively brief arrangement of “I’ll Be Seeing You,” just Judi and a muted echo from Jacobs.
Over the years, Judi Silvano has proven herself to be a complex and far-reaching musician, as comfortable on swinging standards as on the most obtuse reconstructions of melody and harmony or original works. Beyond her signature vocal interpretations, however, Judi continually forges new territory through her collaborations, and Indigo Moods – melding voice, piano and trumpet–presents one of her most satisfying alliances to date.
— Andrea Canter, JazzPolice.com
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Jazz vocalist/composer Judi Silvano, who celebrates 20 years of recording with her new standards album, “Indigo Moods” (released last week via Jazzed Media), will take center stage on Saturday, May 5, at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., at Trumpets Jazz Club, 6 Depot Square. Cover charge is $15. For reservations, call 973-744-2600.
Silvano has had a successful career as both a vocalist and a composer, premiering original works with musicians such as Joe Lovano and Kenny Werner. Recently, she was chosen to have two of her classical works featured at the New York Women Composers’ concert at Symphony Space’s Thalia Theatre in New York City.
Her album, “Indigo Moods” is a collection of standards, featuring Silvano, pianist Peter Tomlinson and trumpeter Fred Jacobs. The arrangements on the album were mostly developed during the recording session, which Silvano led, while keeping an open collaborative environment.
What makes this release different from her previous nine albums is that “Indigo Moods” consists entirely of familiar popular jazz standards delivered in an extremely intimate setting. Silvano grew up listening to singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, but needed to study and learn the repertoire in order to make the stylistic transition from the classical style to the more dramatic jazz singing. Since that time, she has completed 10 recordings under her own name, and sung on numerous others, collaborating with leading jazzmen of multiple generations.
Silvano has been collaborating with Peter and Fred as a trio for more than two years. “The synthesis of our musicality allows us to weave our melodic ideas by carefully listening to each other as we play these vintage tunes,” the vocalist stated in an email to The Times. “With this recording, I feel I have integrated bringing these songs to life in my own personal way with a sense of ease. And at least, for me, that only comes with having lived a little longer from experience.”
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Jazz musician Judi Silvano was born into a family who love the arts and it has had a large impact on her life. In a recent interview Silvano spoke about her upbringing, influences and her new album out now called Indigo Moods (Jazzed Media) which features Peter Tomlinson on piano and Fred Jacobs on trumpet.
Silvano is part of a musical family, which has helped her connect with people on many different levels. Her influences are broad, including jazz, big band and classical. She is a talented artist in many areas other than music including dance, painting and pottery. Silvano has just recently published her first painting. One of her paintings is shown on the cover of the album as well as the small picture inside the CD with the blue house and sunset.
For Indigo Moods, she chose her most heartfelt favorite songs such as “Embraceable You” and “Let’s Fall in Love.” Silvano said, “I’ve always been influenced by Ella Fitzgerald because she is so brilliant, but I didn’t want to copy her.” Silvano came up with the idea of her tenth album from playing gigs with Tomlinson and Jacobs. The three musicians perform well together, so she felt that she should record an album with them. She chose some of her favorite songs and the finished product is a wonderful album that is a must have for any jazz fan.
Silvano said, “Music makes me feel good. It makes people feel good. Music is a celebration that brings people together.”
— Michelle Humphrey, Denver Jazz and R&B Examiner