The non-pareil jazz vocals of Gabrielle Stravelli are something to behold. Rarely are contemporary singers as poised and pleasantly voiced as the award winning singer whose bright smile can actually be “heard” in every romantic song.
Pianist Michael Kanan is also an impressive and experienced jazz musician who has the capacity to bring a full sound to his arrangements while at the same time providing nuance and subtlety. As a result, it allows the purity of Stravelli’s voice to shine.
Recently, the pair debuted their duet album, “Stairway to the Stars” at the cozy Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich village, The album, intended to be “stripped down elegance” of piano and voice, offers an array of American standards including, “The Nearness of You”, “I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket”, and “I Concentrate On You.” It also includes some lesser known, but beautiful classics: “I Don’t Know Where to Turn/Autumn Nocturne” and “So Rare”.
The latter, Stravelli revealed during her live show, was a favorite of her parents, who used the song as their first wedding dance. She found Jack Sharpe’s 1937 tune, which includes the lyrics: “So rare, you’re like the sparkle of old champagne/Orchids in cellophane couldn’t compare to you.” After a second listen, she found sweetness and sincerity in the words.
Unfortunately, it was one of the few interesting tid-bits the duo shared at the café. While “Stairway to the Stars” is the perfect album for relaxation in a home stereo system, it didn’t particularly translate well in an evening that could only be described as “pretty, but somnolent.” Even with the addition of songs not found on the album like “My Shining Hour” and “The More I See You”, the hour-long cabaret seemed to linger listlessly on with few stylistic variations.
The remedy might be found through more musicians. While Kanan has a knack for making the keys sounds like an orchestra, there is only so much a single instrument can do. With the help of a bass player and drums and some more upbeat material, the pair could more fully engage with both their songs, and their audience. It might also be more interesting if Stravelli would share more anecdotes since her naturally friendly demeanor lends itself to storytelling.
“Stairway to the Stars” is well worth a listen and will appeal to casual listeners and jazz aficionados alike. As it stands now, the live performance of this “Stairway” only reaches the ceiling. With some overhaul, it will hit the heavens.
“Stairway to the Stars” is available on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/stairway-to-the-stars/id1097461347