WBGO Radar

Marianne Solivan: Spark

singer marianne solivan

Marianne Solivan's Spark is an album on the move. The session confidently strides forward, buoyed by the the singer's own sound and the understated assuredness she shares with her musical companions.

Pianist Xavier Davis, bassist Matthew Parrish and drummer Gregory Hutchinson are along with Marianne for this ride, and one hears a shared sense of rightness in the task at hand. Which is, to wit, casting a line out into jazz that lands perfectly pitched between tradition and the future. 

The album's title track, a Solivan original, entreats a lover to join her on a journey of discovery. On this as on many tracks, Parrish's steady gait sets the pace, and Davis's piano adds the right amount of elegant comment. Parrish joins Solivan on the neighboring barstool for Oscar Brown Jr.'s "Hum Drum Blues," a wizened look on the the challenges of workaday life. 

Solivan's pensive "First Desire" evokes the "colors of love" as they evolve over the course of a day. Her cover of Francesca Blumenthal's "Lies Of Handome Men," made famous by Margaret Whiting, points out some of the pitfalls that lie in wait for a romantic as she makes her way in the world.

Her homage to Abbey Lincoln, Phil Moore's "Tender As A Rose," depicts one bruised in love who picks herself up and returns to the fight, and then goes out for the good time promised by Johnny Mercer's "I Wanna Be Around."

Her next original, "If I Were To Love You," returns to the promise the heart feels as love springs to life. She co-wrote "The Dove" with pianist Davis.

Spark is Solivan's second album, and the poised mix of originals with rarely-heard standards heard here immediately brings to mind the approach of vocalist Gregory Porter, and his incandescent arrival on the jazz scene. One can only hope Marianne will enjoy an equally meteoric rise.

There is no nostalgia here, only freshness as she delves deep into herself and into the treasure chest of jazz. Solivan shares Porter's uncommon ability to balance self-disclosure with confidence in her tone and lyrics, and the results are compelling.

Audiences respond to her sincerity, and rightly so. 

Solivan sppears regularly at The Astor Room in Queens, New York, on Oct. 5 at Smalls Jazz Club in lower Manhattan, at Minton's in Harlem on Oct. 28 and at Blues Alley in Washington, DC on Nov. 11.

 - Tim Wilkins, WBGO digital content manager


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