First of all: no, this isn't Jimmy Kimmel's comedienne ex-girlfriend, but, yes, this Sarah Silverman is as talented and often as unorthodox as her TV-world namesake. The very first song, a waaaay different version of Nature Boy, written by Eden Ahbez but made famous by George Benson, is not just a CD track but a piece of Art as well. Pianist Bruce Barth, Silverman's only accompanist throughout the disc, strikes a Cage-ian pluck-tap intro presaging what sounds like a bass flute struggling up from the ground but turns out to be Sarah resonating above the keyboard, turning to vocables, and then singing almost monotonically, as though a delicate reed whistling in the wind. From there, voice and piano come together to make things mistily half-lucid while ceaselessly experimenting within a very narrow range that welds the listener to its myriad nuances, a compelling interlude of neoclassicality, the avant-garde, and an almost catholic resonance with the traditional underneath everything. That intro finally flows into the song itself, still contained but breaking above and below borders.
I was immediately minded of Nicki Schrire and Avital Raz in that the passage was the sort of mannered boldness rarely heard and even then solely through the discipline and imagination of the vocalist. Brazilian jazz singer Luciana Souza, another chanteuse who defies easy categorization, best nailed it in calling Sarah "curious", but there's nary a hint of condescension nor deference in that adjective, instead an admirative feeling of fellowship. So when Silverman then headed for old-timey parlor jazz in Take Love Easy, the disjuncture was just as happily unsettling and provocative as the unexpected Nature Boy.
Samba en Preludio marries the voice-as-instrument aspect of Nature Boy with Romantic Braziliana and a patrician chamber refinement forcing the listener to remember how beautifully a well trained voice can stand to inspection when posed for its own sake rather than via spectacular pyrotechnics and outsized stage intensities. The combination of Smoke Gets in your Eyes and I Get Along Without You Very Well demonstrates how duet affairs work to get back to basics and re-enshrine the voice as something that doesn't need a rafter full of paraphenalia when the singer's caliber matches audience hopes. My own hope, though, is that Ms. Silverman will at some point put out an entire CD of experimentations in line with Nature Boy. It'd be a thoroughly unique venture and much needed in a world where singers increasingly strive to match the crass banalities of, say, Lion King anthematics (sorry, Elton, but you had it comin'!).
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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