Jazz singer Judi Silvano is the wife of tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano and she has appeared on some of his Blue Note albums, including Viva Caruso (2002), Celebrating Sinatra (1996) and Universal Language (1992), with a rather operatic vocalese style.
Silvano began recording under her own name on Blue Note with Vocalese (1996) and then with her own JSL Label which has released several albums including Songs I Wrote or Wish I Wrote (2000), Sound Garden: Spirit Music (2004) and Sound Garden: Celestial Voices (2005). Somewhere along the way Silvano switched to a straight vocal style without either vocalese or perhaps only a dab of scat..
Women’s Work: Live at Sweet Rhythm is based on a concept to present songs written by women and presented by an all femme group. This album has been carefully planned, and represents a concept of femininity in jazz writing and performing, and is well-realized in both planning and execution. The songs are composed by writers including Mary Lou Williams, Abbey Lincoln, Sheila Jordan and Carla Bley, plus two Silvano originals and one from pianist Janice Friedman.
Of the players, and they are all good, it’s Friedman who provides the cement that really holds this group together with her solos, comping and altogether solid playing. Allison Miller, who plays in many different genres, is a creative drummer.
Recorded live at Sweet Rhythm (formerly known as Sweet Basil), the opening tune, Silvano’s “Bougainvillea” has appeared elsewhere in her discography. Williams’ “Pretty Eyed Baby” is reminiscent of a tune that Nat King Cole might have recorded with his trio and is a fine jump composition. Blossom Dearie’s “Inside A Silent Tear” was heavily recorded during the 1970s, and Meredith D’Ambrosio’s “Why Do I Still Dream of You” is a touching ballad, and let’s face it—when have you ever heard any jazz vocalist cover D’Ambrosio’s work?
Likewise, Silvano covers Lincoln’s “Not to Worry,” Jordan’s autobiographical “Ballad for Miles” and Bley’s humorous “Can’t Get My Motor to Start.” She concludes with Bessie Smith’s “Backwater Blues,” a song that defined Dinah Washington’s 1950s output. Did Silvano take too much of a chance here? Well, it doesn’t beat out either Smith or Washington’s version but it elongates the song into a pleasing six minutes of pleasure.
Women’s Work: Live at Sweet Rhythm is the best of Silvano’s post-millennium albums. It presents a hardworking quartet making fine music so that whether in tribute or not, these eleven tracks present a well-developed and fun approach to a conceptual overlay.
– Michael P. Gladstone, AllAboutJazz
The third set is a recent outing by Judi prepared especially to celebrate Women’s History Month. All the compositions hereon are by women, and the accompanying trio are also women. The composers include Mary Lou Williams, Sheila Jordan, Meredith D’Ambrosio, Carla Bley and Bessie Smith, as well as Judi herself. The songs, all very good indeed, are much less well known than they deserve and they must surely enter the repertoire of other singers. The trio consists of Janice Friedman, piano (also co-composer of one song with Judi), Jennifer Vincent, bass, and Allison Miller, drums. Playing and singing here is exceptional, and as a group these four musicians blend with unforced subtlety. An exceptionally attractive album and another important milestone in Judi’s career. (Buy these now …)
– Bruce Crowther – http://www.swing2bop.com/reviews2.html#40
Her jazz vocals can only be described as svelte & smooth… what sets her music apart from all those “other” singers, though, is the earthquake-level energy, though… if there were a musical “richter scale”, she’d come off at about a “12”! This CD will reach right out & grab your heartstrings, but in such a pleasant way that you’ll keep comin’ back for more, hour after hour, day after day. The full range of emotions is explored here… joy, sadness & a little laid-back late-night blues… Jazz fans everywhere will know, from the first bar, that they’ve got to have this one! As you might expect from the title, her vocals are complimented by superb playing from Janice Friedman (keyboards), Jennifer Vincent (bass) & Allison Miller (drums). It’s a live recording (“Sweet Rhythm Jazz Club, NYC), which helps to make it even more enchanting… as you listen to this album, you’ll see/hear Judi & friends right there in your living room. We’ve always enjoyed Ms. Silvano’s jazz work, & have no doubt that you’ll be a life-long fan from the first cut… so much talent, so much energy – this one gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – some of the best vocal jazz we’ve heard this year!
– Rotcod Zzaj
Caught live at New York’s Sweet Rhythm in March 2006, Judi Silvano gives a masterful performance. The album title nods not only to the bold, vibrant all-female ensemble, but to the repertoire, which was penned exclusively by women. Far more than a concept album, Women’s Work finds the singer at the peak of her creative game.
Silvano has impeccable timing and diction, and the occasional lapse of intonation is easily forgiven in this small-club setting. She displays a firm knowledge of jazz history and vocal technique, subtly coloring the songs with a well-placed swoop here, a cheery squeak there. She respects the songwriters’ intentions while adding her own flair.
The singer keeps excellent company. Pianist Janice Friedman is an inspiring partner, sympathetic to Silvano’s interpretations and equally colorful. Bassist Jennifer Vincent is not well-recorded, but glows when she stands forward, as on “Silent Tear” and the frenetic “New Dance”. Drummer Allson Miller has pinpoint control and bursting energy. Their partnership reaches full bloom on Carla Bley’s “Can’t Get My Motor To start,” a difficult piece they pull off with joyous panache.
– Todd Jenkins, Downbeat Magazine, September 2007
Women’s Work: Live at Sweet Rhythm NYC is an all-female production of jazz pieces by artists from Judi Silvano to Mary Lou Williams. The production is tight and well organized, allowing for both voice and instruments to soulfully present themselves. Silvano starts out the recording with a piano lounge tune, “Bougainvillea,” which immediately sets the tone for the album. Janice Friedman’s piano fingers run well with Silvano’s richly soulful voice.
“Pretty Eyed Baby” presents more of a Gershwin slant. There’s a bit of a chorus voice in the background, which would be better served if it had a bigger role, but maybe it’s just meant to be a ghost of presence alongside the dynamics of Silvano.
While the entire song list displays polished music, there are several pieces that stand out above the rest. “What’s Your Story Morning Glory” is a combination of cutting piano and light bass with the pitter-patter of drums, which quickly create the bluesy atmosphere necessary for Silvano’s versatile vocals. In “Ballad for Miles,” the bass makes the spine tingle. This piece is the album’s contribution to instrumental experimentation. Although the lyrics sing of other musicians, I am not interested – the sounds rightfully distract me.
The last song, “Backwater Blues,” is the collection’s cover nod to Bessie Smith. It is the best choice to end on. The group meets high expectations in pulling it off. From first to last, Women’s Work more than pleases.
– Review by Nicolette Westfall , Feminist Review blog, February 4,2008
Judi Silvano is a traditional Jazz singer, whose release “Woman’s Work” showcases her bright voice against a simple backdrop of piano, drums and bass in an intimate live performance.
Rosemary Clooney, Peggy Lee with a pinch of Ella Fitzgerald are good points of reference for her vocal style. Silvano is not afraid to be playful and light on such songs as “Not To Worry” and “New Dance” where she scats convincingly, and she can also handle a song with more depth such as “Inside A Silent Tear” and the lovely “Why Do I Still Dream of You”, which is the standout track and her best vocal performance.
The backing band’s musicianship is excellent, and they exercise restraint where other musicians may have gone overboard with solos.
This CD is pleasant listen, and perfect for those who can appreciate a singer with a clean, unfussy voice that is not afraid to take some chances for her craft.
Bringing Women’s Work to Light — Jazz vocalist and instrumentalist Judi Silvano of Local 802 (New York City) has released a new CD entitled Women’s Work, featuring under-recorded compositions by female jazz musicians. The album celebrates the work of seven female composers: Mary Lou Williams, Blossom Dearie of Local 802, Abbey Lincoln, Meredith d’Ambrosio, Janice Friedman of Local 802, Sheila Jordan and Carla Bley of Local 802, also contributed compositions to the album.
Prior to recording Women’s Work, Silvano says she was familiar with the works of composers such as Abbey Lincoln and Sheila Jordan. However, she had to go to a special music library to search out other featured composers such as Mary Lou Williams. While some of the songs on Women’s Work may be previously unknown, Silvano says that the composers represent “some of the best of the American composers, let alone that they’re female.” Many of them are recognized as pianists and vocalists, but until now, their composing accomplishments have been largely overlooked.
Women’s Work was originally conceived in 2003 as an annual concert to honor women musicians during Women’s History Month in March. Silvano’s Women’s Work Quartet evolved into an all-female ensemble and began performing together with appearances in Rome, Italy, hosted by the Donne in Musica Foundation, and at the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Women in Jazz Festival.
Because of the group members’ busy schedules, Women’s Work was recorded live at Sweet Rhythm in New York City. Silvano explains that live recording can be difficult, but that the Quartet had developed a deep level of trust. “That’s what’s fun about it,” says Silvano. “You really get to be in the moment the more you know the musicians that you are working with, and relate to them, and react to them.” Women’s Work is Silvano’s seventh album. Previous albums include recordings with Bill Frisell of Local 76-493 (Seattle WA), Kenny Werner of Local 802, Charlie Haden of Local 47 (Los Angeles), and Silvano’s husband, Joe Lovano of Local 802. Silvano’s 2002 album with late pianist Mal Waldron, Riding a Zephyr, is considered by many critics to be among the best jazz voice-piano albums of the decade.
As an accomplished female musician, Silvano feels that it is her responsibility to bring overlooked female composers to the attention of the public. “This recording came about out of a serious study and an inquisition about composers whom I had heard about,” she explains. “Part of it was my curiosity, finding out what other material was out there.”
As for the future of women jazz musicians, Silvano is optimistic. “The skill and experience among women musicians has definitely come up, and acceptance and acknowledgement has also increased.” Overall, she feels there is a better gender balance in the music industry than there was 10 years ago.
Silvano hopes that she will continue to be viewed as a professional musician, rather than being qualified as a “woman in music.” “Women’s Work”, she says, “is an act of confidence for me.”
-Lynn Jordan, Hot Indie News
One of two images came to mind when I saw the album title “Women’s Work”. The image was either going to be the cliche of the 1950’s women: wearing aprons, chatting animatedly as they mind the kids at the sandbox, doing the dishes and laundry, preparing dinner. The other image I had was women in overalls and miners’ or construction workers helmets preparing for heavy lifting and operating cranes and jack hammers. Neither is the case here. Instead four superb women musicians, stylishly-dressed, assembled for a well-prepared performance at New York’s Sweet Rhythm jazz club for a spirited live recording.
This is Judi Silvano’s 5th recording over the past ten years as a leader. Women’s Work is a themed project – obviously. The musical artists on this recording and the composers of all the songs are women. Silvano pays tribute to some of the more influential female stylists in jazz. She performs compositions that are compelling musically, and compelling because they are among the more obscure and rarely performed songs – by comparison to the usual standards and chestnuts from the jazz lexicon. In addition to covering works by vocalists Abbey Lincoln, Bessie Smith, Sheila Jordan, Meredith D’Ambrosio & Blossom Dearie, Silvano performs “Pretty Eyed Baby” by instrumentalists – including legendary and groundbreaking (on many levels) pianist, composer and arranger Mary Lou Williams, and Carla Bley. The chronological and stylistic expanse of Silvano’s choices, from the swing era Williams to the exploratory approaches of Carla Bley, are noteworthy. Silvano and pianist Janice Friedman also contribute a couple of songs.
The opening composition, “Bougainvillea” – a lovely relaxed Bossa Nova was composed by Silvano, as was the song “New Dance” [Keith Jarrett actually released an album on ECM Records around 1980 which was entitled “Nude Ants’” a play on the words “New Dance.”] Judi’s band mate, pianist Janice Friedman contributed “Easy to Love” (not to be confused with the standard composed by Cole Porter).
Silvano opens “Pretty Eyed Baby” with a solid two-beat groove. You can hear the smile in her voice. She sounds confident as she delightfully brings this simple lyric to life. The rhythm section blossoms into a more driving swing groove for Janice Friedman’s lyrical solo.
The groove on “Inside A Silent Tear” is right out of the Ahmad Jamal “Poinciana” bag – with a Latin, Bossa-like rhythmic foundation. Allison Miller accurately supplies the drum accompaniment generally associated with the aforementioned Jamal classic. Friedman contributes another magnificent solo. Silvano floats magically above the ensemble, making sensitive use of dynamics, and singing with impressive phrasing – gently bending the lyrics and stamping it with her own identity. “Not To Worry” is composed by Abbey Lincoln, and offers Silvano the opportunity to express the joy that is a staple of this group and that evening’s festivities. Silvano slows it down on Meredith D’Ambrosio’s pensive “Why Do I Still Dream of You?”. The after-midnight feel, gentle tempo, thoughtful dynamics, and notable accompaniment by Friedman on piano and Milller on drums, help Silvano shine here. Silvano gives us a healthy helping of her scatting strengths on the lively samba groove of her own composition “New Dance”. The album concludes with a blues – Bessie Smith’s “Backwater Blues.” Silvano is at her best here.
Judi’s artistic endeavors have taken her far beyond the area of vocalist and composer. After studying Music and Dance at Temple University, Silvano moved to New York and embarked on a career in improvisation – dance and then jazz music. She has had a long time association with Joe Lovano, and cut her teeth learning to sing the lead trumpet parts of Thad Jones’ arrangements when she used to go hear the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra at the Village Vanguard back when.
Silvano has assembled a superb band, a clever set of music and Women’s Work expectedly shows the ongoing growth, commitment ability and sensitivity of this evolving artist.
– Clive Griffin, September 2007
Judi Silvano is a pre-eminent New York City-based jazz vocalist and composer. She is known for her classically trained, nubile vocal chops, and a penchant for creative projects that push the proverbial envelope. Whether she is scatting in the stratosphere of a free jazz composition, rendering a ballad by Monk or Gershwin, or performing with any of her diverse ensembles, she is uniquely herself – uncompromising and always interesting.
Her latest recording, Women’s Work, is a concept album, celebrating the contributions of women in jazz. The CD was recorded during a “live” performance honouring Woman’s History Month 2007 at Greenwhich Village’s “Sweet Rhythm”. Judi has included material from some of her most profound influences – Mary Lou Williams, Blossom Dearie, Abbey Lincoln, Meredith D’Ambrosio, Sheila Jordan, Carla Bley and Bessie Smith. She has also assembled an all-female cast of fine musicians (Janice Friedman on piano, Jennifer Vincent on bass and Allison Miller on drums) who more than rise to the challenge. Woman’s Work retains a distinctive “live” quality.
Silvano has penned three compositions for the project, with “Bouganvillea” being the most evocative. The languid, melodic line is voiced in Judi’s lower register, creating a mellow and engaging mood, and Janice Friedman’s gorgeously constructed piano solo is a thing of beauty.
“Pretty Eyed Baby” by the late jazz pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams, along with a rhumba-infused rendition of the Blossom Dearie ballad, “Inside a Silent Tear” are both notable tracks. Women’s Work is not just a concept recording for jazz historians and purists or feminists, but is a living, breathing highly musical jazz album that pays homage to an art form that is the birth right of all the peoples on this tiny blue planet – not just the ones with a Y chromosome.
-Lesley Mitchell-Clarke, Special to The Whole Note