Annette Genovese,
Dream with Me
(independent, 2013)

Sarah Silverman,
(independent, 2013)

Annette Genovese has been performing in the New York Tri-State area for a quarter-century and is a veteran in the recording studio. Her bio states that she has produced new wave, gospel, rock, pop, funk and jazz albums, all of which, the bio says, have had her primary creative oversight, from initial vision through song arrangement/writing, recording, mixing and final mastering.

In other words, she's in charge.

This album doesn't come across as if she's in command, however. For a showcase of a vocalist, it's incredibly guitar-centric, as if the real heavy in the room is guitarist Rob Reich, whose bio on the one-sheet is at least twice as long as hers.

He's twice as prominent on the CD also, taking almost all of the solos and driving all of the arrangements.

The album does not start off in a promising fashion. "Senor Blues," the opening cut, begins, as so many of her songs do, with scat singing, which breaks into a semi-frantic Latin-tinged song about a South American king of the blues called Senor Blues. It serves mostly to serve notice that this is going to be a Latin-flavored album. In fact, songs are given the bossa-nova treatment even when they aren't suited for it, such as the old soft-rock ballad, "Superstar." One of Genovese's originals, "Young & Fine," is so dressed in Latin clothes that its time signature and vocal approach make it sound more frenetic than energetic. On "Willow Weep for Me," the band settles down, concentrates on the melody and the results are just fine.

Sarah Silverman supplies a stark contrast to Genovese. A classically trained pianist who fell in love with jazz piano and then jazz singing, she has, for her debut album, adopted a classical recital approach, with just her and Bruce Barth's piano accompaniment; this choice keeps the voice foremost.

In its own quiet way, hers is a daring album. Its first track, "Nature Boy," is completely improvised, with singer and pianist playing off of each other to create the performance on the spot. The rest of the program consists of jazz and pop standards. Silverman is a comfortable singer, never seeming to reach or strain. She takes a naturalistic approach to the songs, as if she's having a talk with an old friend rather than performing. A master of underselling, Silverman never oversings.

Her approach to "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"and "I Get along Without You Very Well" is emblematic of the way she prefers to work; she puts them together into a medley, a move that showcases the narrative in the songs. Her storytelling is wonderful here; she lets the songs speak, trusting the lyrics. It's a cabaret performance; listening, you picture her in a small intimate club, leaning against the piano, calmly working the audience with her vocal magic.

For the final cut, Silverman takes over on the piano and turns her classical training loose, playing Grieg's "Arietta," for which she has written lyrics.

It's a fine performance, and it tops off a fine album.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

4 January 2014

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