Singer Marianne Solivan Brings Subtle, Soulful Style to Hartford

Apr 16, 2014

Perhaps Solivan's heightened verbal awareness is due partly to the fact that she's tri-lingual, fluent in English, Spanish, and French.

Besides possessing a lovely instrument of a voice graced with rich, sensuous timbres, Marianne Solivan is a gifted, wise singer who never feels compelled to use her ample skills to push the envelope so hard that she murders the enclosed message in the song.

Instead of following the currently more fashionable approach of unleashing blasting barrages from pyrotechnical pipes accompanied by a tsunami of melodramatic emotions, she sings her songs with genuine, direct feeling, crystal clear diction and a deep understanding of the lyrics, and with hip, aptly selected, fluidly inventive embellishments. Her sense of swing and fluent phrasing are cool and natural as an underground spring.

It’s all organic, untainted by commercial ingredients, 100 percent free of toxic virtuosic overkill. There’s no strain, no pain. What you get instead of faux emotions and thundering crescendos full of sound and fury posing as real-life dramas is a warm, lived-in sound capable of expressing a wide, vibrant range of genuine human experience.

The New York-based singer brings her swinging mix of sense and sensibility to town as she performs with her trio at 7:30 pm Saturday, April 19, in the Music@Japanalia series at Japanalia Eiko at 11 Whitney Street in Hartford. Her backup trio features the great pianist, Xavier Davis, a bonus that by itself could make the admission fee a bargain. Davis’s trio mates are bassist Matthew Parrish and drummer Jerome Jennings.

If Solivan isn’t yet on your jazz radar, her 2012 album, Prisoner of Love (HiPNOTIC Records) is an excellent introduction to her fine craftswomanship and easy-going ability to project warmth and feeling. With no effort, she strides through a repertoire ranging from Betty Carter and the doomed jazz genius Gigi Gryce to Cole Porter and Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.  

Davis, the pianist for the Hartford gig, is also on this disc in a superb studio band featuring superstar bassist Christian McBride, guitarist Peter Bernstein, bassist Ben Wolfe and drummer Johnathan Blake, with a special guest appearance by the noted trumpeter Jeremy Pelt.    

Pianist Michael Kanan sits in on two duet tracks with Solivan, including an affecting but never lachrymose rendition of the Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne classic, “I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry.” As displayed here and on other tracks, including the tight duo collaboration with McBride on “All or Nothing At All,” she’s a most empathetic musician. Her elegant self-editing leads to exactly right note selections, which is a perfect melodic match for her appreciation of each song’s words and narrative.

Perhaps Solivan's heightened verbal awareness is due partly to the fact that she’s a word person who’s tri-lingual, fluent in English, Spanish, and French, and is also an avid reader. Emotionally, she ranges easily from her romp through Betty Carter’s “I Can’t Help It”—a jubilant rendition made even more exuberant by Xavier Davis’s Wynton Kelly-like ebullience—to the impressionist mood and colors of the Ellington/Strayhorn reverie, “Day Dream.”

As part of a pre-release celebration of Solivan’s next album, Spark, she’ll preview selections from the upcoming CD, which mixes original material and standards done in her signature style.

With any luck, Solivan will perform her soulful rendition of Oscar Brown’s “Hum Drum Blues,” one of the new disc’s show-stoppers, accentuated by her emotional call-and-response interplay with her backup trio. Her accompanists on the new HiPNOTIC Records CD, which is scheduled to be released later this spring, are Xavier Davis, the ideal pianist for her; bassist Matthew Parrish and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. Admission: $48.00, stage-side table seating; $28.00 general row seating. Reservations: (860) 232-4677.

Jamie Baum.
Credit Jamie Baum

Nutmeg Native Named Guggenheim Fellow

Flutist/composer/bandleader Jamie Baum, a native of Bridgeport who grew up in Fairfield, has been awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, one of 177 grants this year for distinguished artists, scholars and scientists in all fields. “I’m really excited by this. It’s a great honor to be part of the fellowship,” said Baum, a globe-trotting Connecticut favorite sounding upbeat on the phone from her New York apartment.     

Baum was among eleven fellows named in the music composition category.

"Things like this helpfully reaffirm that you’re doing what you should be doing," Baum said. "The grant will allow me to have a little more freedom and the time to write and just focus on music." Her fellowship project, she added, will be inspired by her growing interest in the music of Jewish mysticism, culminating with a new recording of her original work in 2015 with her celebrated septet and special guests.

Jamie Baum.
Credit Jamie Baum

Baum was among eleven fellows named in the music composition category, a winner’s circle that includes such fellow notables as Steve Coleman and Elliott Sharp. Guggenheim winners are selected from thousands of applicants “on the basis of impressive achievement in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment.” The Guggenheim provides funding to support individual projects for between six to 12 months.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation announced its 2014 winners April 10, most prominently in a full-page ad in The New York Times. Baum had been informed earlier that she was selected, but knew nothing about the big Times spread that morning until she got an excited call early in the day from one of her mother’s friends.

“I went right downstairs to the bodega in our building and bought a copy of The Times,” Baum said, putting Jazz Corridor temporarily on hold as yet another congratulatory call comes in on her busy phone. “Oh, that was Jane Bunnett just calling to congratulate me,” she explained after a brief conversation with her well-wishing friend and colleague, the noted Canadian soprano saxophonist/flutist/bandleader.

In her recent and widely acclaimed album, In This Life, Baum, a composer with a gift for creating compelling melody and rich, layered voicings, took modern classical music and South Asian music as the sources of inspiration for her fresh, inventive modern jazz-rooted compositions. She can take diverse inspirations ranging from Charles Ives and Igor Stravinsky to John Coltrane and Indian music and, as in her three septet recordings, create something wholly new and entirely original.

The Guggenheim Foundation does not disclose the amount of money each individual fellow receives. Whatever the amount, it will be well invested by providing Baum with the wherewithal and time to focus on her fine art of composition. 

Loren Stillman and Bad Touch.
Credit Loren Stillman

Bad Touch’s Baddest Grooves at Firehouse 12

Celebrating their new album Going Public (Fresh Sound New Talent Records), alto saxophonist Loren Stillman and Bad Touch perform at 8:30 and 10:00 pm on Friday, April 18, at Firehouse 12, at 45 Crown Street in New Haven. The combo expands on the classic organ trio/quartet format while touching on the history of jazz.

Besides Stillman, the other baddest of the bad players are Hammond organmeister Gary Versace, guitarist Nate Radley and drummer Ted Poor, who is not only Poor but also bad in the best way. Tickets: $18.00 first set; $12.00, second set. Information: firehouse12.com and (203) 785-0468.

Magic Triangle Unveils Ehrlich’s Prestidigitation

The prestigious Magic Triangle Jazz Series presents the renowned, cutting-edge conjurer Marty Ehrlich, instrumentalist/composer/bandleader, and The Marty Ehrlich Large Ensemble performing at 8:30 pm on Thursday, April 17, in Bezanson Recital Hall at the Fine Arts Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

The maestro and his ensemble will present a performance of A Trumpet in the Morning, his acclaimed new recording, which marks the first documentation devoted to his large ensemble compositions. Admission: $12.00, general public; $7.00, students. Available through the box office at (800) 999-UMAS. The series, which concludes its 25th season with the Ehrlich Ensemble, is produced by WMUA-FM and the Fine Arts Center.

Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR

Shoreline Notes

Continuing its wave of championship fare, The Side Door Jazz Club, the shoreline jazz harbor in Old Lyme, features yet another strong one-two punch this weekend as it presents the Benny Green Trio on Friday night and the Marcus Strickland Quartet on Saturday night.

Since his apprenticeship with jazz masters Betty Carter and Art Blakey, Green has become a hard-bop piano master in his own right, with a keyboard voice all his own.

Strickland, whose diverse performing and recording credits range from Roy Haynes and Jeff “Tain” Watts to Wynton Marsalis and Dave Douglas, has carved out his own impressive niche, and, as a sign of his growing influence, has become a frequent winner of coveted “best of” poll awards, including winner of Downbeat’s Critics’ Polls for Rising Star on Soprano Saxophone in 2012 and Rising Star on Tenor Saxophone in 2010.

Bands hit at 8:30 pm. Doors open at 7:30. Admission: $40.00 for Green; $25.00 for Strickland. Information: thesidedoorjazz.com and (860) 434-0886. The club is at 85 Lyme Street in Old Lyme.   

Casey at the Bat

Saxophonist Mike Casey, a jazz studies student at The Hartt School’s Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz, maintains an up-tempo performance schedule outside the classroom with frequent gigs throughout Connecticut as well as appearances at such nationally noted venues as New York’s Smalls Jazz Club and Boston’s Hard Rock Café.

In Casey’s next time at bat, the hard-swinging, saxophone slugger leads his trio at 7:00 pm on Thursday, April 17, in an admission-free concert at MCC on Main, 903 Main Street in Manchester. Casey’s teammates are bassist Matt Dwonszyk and drummer Corey Garcia. His trio’s repertoire ranges from original music to fresh takes on jazz standards. Information: (860) 647-6030.

Venue Hopping

Pianist John Brighenti teams up with noted bassist Phil Bowler and singer Erin O’Luanaigh at 7:00 pm on Thursday, April 17, at J’s Crabshack, 2074 Park Street in Hartford. Information: (860) 231-9545. The peripatetic pianist continues his Jazz Nights with John Brighenti and Friends series at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, April 16, with singer Karen Frisk, and at 6:00 pm on April 24 with O’Luanaigh at his frequent stomping grounds, Casa Mia on the Green, 600 Cold Spring Road, Rocky Hill. Information: (860) 563-7000.

Trumpeter John Roseboro headlines at Jazz Mondays at 8:00 pm on Monday, April 21 at Black-eyed Sally’s in Hartford. Admission: free. A banner jazz series, Jazz Mondays is presented under the aegis of Hartford’s venerable Charter Oak Cultural Center. Information: charteroakcenter.org.

Please submit press releases on upcoming jazz events at least two weeks before the publication date to omac28@gmail.com. Comments and suggestions left below are also most welcome.