July 13, 2024


Website about Jazz and Blues

Interview with Judi Silvano: It is all about Feeling. From the Heart … Video

Judi Silvano

Jazz interview with jazz singer / composer / lyricist Judi Silvano. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Judi Silvano: – I grew up just outside of Philadelphia, PA within a family that loved music, art and nature.  I heard all kinds of music around the house, from Classical Symphonies and Opera, Broadway Shows, Big Bands,major Jazz Soloists like Miles and Coltrane, to Ella Fitzgerald’s famous Songbooks and Billie Holiday recordings.   Center City (as downtown Philadelphia is called) was a short drive away along the beautiful Wissahickon and Schuylkill River Drives and offered a rich environment of Museums, Concerts, Monuments, Libraries and Colleges.

My mother was my major influence and benefactor and made sure I took Piano, Flute and Dance Lessons all through my early life and our local schools had bands and choirs that I was part of.  Our family regularly visited the famed Phila. Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum on the Ben Franklin Parkway. Mom nurtured my natural gift for dance and I took classes with Anna Criss Roth, an Isadora Duncan devotee, having worked with one of her adopted daughters, IrmaDuncan. At 12 I was the youngest in her dance troupe and we performed often at The Robin Hood Dell, a beautiful outdoor stage.  Momalso took me to see the Pennsylvania Ballet (where I was a scholarship student in Jr. High School), the famous Bolshoi Ballerina Maya Plistskayaperforming “The Dying Swan” and later Merce Cunningham’s modern dance troupe from New York.  I went to many Philadelphia Orchestra concerts at The Academy of Music, a gem of a concert hall which I found out later was reknown because of its great acoustics.  In my senior year of High School we moved into Center City and I actually graduated from Philadelphia High School for Girls on that very stage before heading to Temple University on a Vocal Scholarship.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the jazz vocal?

JS: – I heard so much music not only at home, but also on the radio so I was inspired to express myself!  I practiced flute and piano for my lessons and then through the years have re-visited my study of those instruments many times. But my voice was always my main instrument and I felt totally connected with my sense of dance movement and my breath.

So I was inspired listening especially to Ella Fitzgerald’s flexible and swinging vocal style on all the classic songs that she tackled with such musicality and expressiveness.  She was my guiding light for many years.Her warm tone and agility to jump octaves in her improvised choruses was exciting to me! And I loved those great classic songs by George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter and other great composers.

JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the jazz vocal?

JS: – The first teacher who really impressed me with her passionate love of playing was Flautist Yolanda PicucciRadlowski.  She showed me a glimpse of someone with a large and stellar talentwho stood out in our community and wanted to share her world-view with her young students.  I was exposed also to music by famous composers, one of my favorites being studyingClaude Debussy’s amazing flute solo “The Syrinx” with her.

The Choir Director at Philadelphia High School for Girls in my senior year was William Murphy.  He not only conducted the choir that I was part of but he also prepared me for College Auditions as a Voice Major.  It was a very challenging time in my life, having moved from my childhood home into the city and getting ready for college at the same time.  I have lost touch with him, but I am grateful for his guidance in making that transition so I could continue nurturing my musical talent. Thank you Mr. Murphy!

Then I went to Temple University on a vocal scholarship and sang with the powerful conductor Robert Page who brought the world of great classics to our 32-voice Concert Choir.  He demanded a high level of vocal sound, clarity and ensemble work.  We performed Ludwig Van Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony”, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “The Bells”,  Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” (with the Penna. Ballet Co.),  Samuel Barber’s “The Lovers”, Charles Ives’ “Harvest Home Chorales” and the world premiere of Kristof Penderecki’s “Utrenja Suite” performed and recorded with Eugene Ormandy conducting The Philadelphia Orchestra.  Those were some deep roots for a college student!

After graduation and singing for several years as a church Soloist and dancing with the Group Motion Multi Media Dance Company including my first European tour to Berlin’s Akademie der Kunst, I came to NYC in 1976.  I had a dance scholarship at the AlwinNikolais-Murray Louis School of Dance where I studied their dance technique and choreography concepts.  It was an exciting time of integrating body movement with musical rhythms and refining the poetic ‘language’ of dance expression.  These two visionary artists were a big influence on me.  Murray was a Poet of Dance. And Nik was one of the earliestcomposers using The Moog Synthesizer and was also a pioneer costume designer using new Lycra fabrics for his dancers!  I performed with many young choreographers and did Dance Improv sessions, which definitely informed my future development into a vocal improviser.

Although these associated artistic factors were on my creative radar, my voice was always the most natural and comfortable expression for me and since Jazz holds the greatest possibilities for exploration and collaboration I was drawn to that artform.  I was fortunate living in NYC to hear some great Improvisers and took lessons or workshops whenever possible.  I was soon invited to join Jam Sessions that are so valuable to developing one’s concept as well as relationships with other creative folks.

In the early 1980’s I took a workshop with 3 amazing Vocal Improvisers who were to become Mentors through many different phases of my growth and development.

Jeanne Lee had recorded original songs with the great pianist Mal Waldron who had been Billie Holiday’s last accompanist, and years later I had the opportunity to study his songs, write lyrics and record some of them with him in Europe.  She had a very low vocal range and dark sound and started working with spoken word and poetry and remained an influence for many years.

Jay Clayton was an adventurous improviser who had a very high range as I did and I was very excited to hear someone else singing that way.  I took several workshops with her and take inspiration from her to this day!  I have been part of her Vocal Ensemble for the past 10 years and am delighted to sing her arrangements and originals with an A-Capella group of wonderful singers.

Sheila Jordan is the guiding light for many vocalists world-wide.  She, too, had a road full of twists and turns on her journey from growing up in Detroit to becoming the first Jazz Singer recorded on Blue Note Records.  She heard Charlie Parker when she was young and was part of his world for many years.  Now in her 80’s she still travels the world spreading her love of Charlie Parker’s music and telling her story and thehistory of  such luminaries as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and of course “Bird”.  Her deep well of Love and Joy are a gift to the world and she is loved wherever she goes!

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

JS: – My natural voice is in the Soprano range and since my teenage years I sang in Choirs and Madrigal ensembles in school and later as a Solo singer in church and synagogue services and concerts.  My studies at Temple University were Classical Voice Technique but I always listened to jazz at home, too.

Once I moved to NYC I began hearing live bands all the time and being in the room and listening to cats play and feeling their energy made a deep impression on me.  I went to clubs all over town but mostly to the Village Vanguard where I heard Dexter Gordan’s “Homecoming” in the late 1970’s  and one of Bill Evans’ last gigs there.  It soon became a second home to me.  After I met Joe Lovano who was playing in Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra I went to hear that big band most Monday nights for almost 15 years.  I was inspired by Thad Jones’ and Bob Brookmeyer’s great arrangements and very soon I could sing along with the lead trumpet (Earl Gardner’s tone and articulation was a wonder).

In the early 1970’s in Philadelphia, I remember hearing Keith Jarrett’s Quartet at the famous Showboat Jazz Club on Broad Street where he avoided playing the white piano and instead played percussion and soprano sax instead!  Because I was underage, they let me sneak in and promise to drink a soda up in the balcony!  I remember the drummer was small and wirey and years later learned that it was Paul Motian, with Dewey Redman and Charlie Haden in the band, all of whom I’d get to know personally years later.  I also went to hear Cecil Taylor,sitting on big pillows at The Empty Foxhole on Univ. of Penna’s campus in West Philadelphia.In the mid-1970’s I also heard Miles Davis’  band at a club on Arch Street which blew me away.  I think it was Al Foster on drums and Miles played electric keyboard in addition to trumpet and the audience was packed into rows of tables but it was electrifying to be there.

Being in the rich world of New York players starting in 1976 gave me the challenge of embracing my Jazz Influences and Classical Music roots while experiencing this new world of Improvisation and finding my place in it.   Being a high voice, I could relate to the Horn Players, so in jam sessions I began to Sing Like a Horn!  That was a turning point in my approach.

That meant I had to learn a different way of articulating with my instrument.  Vocal lines are often written in a legato or smooth kind of phrasing.  Even in Jazz Standards the Melody line for the Vocal is written with very straight 4/4 note values and long half- or whole-notes.  As I was improvising with horns more and more I learned that they got off their notes more quickly and made their next entrance with strong syncopation instead of right on the beat, so I began to experiment with that approach.

To develop one’s own sound there is a long process of awareness of new possibilities first and then putting these ideas into practice.  I was fortunate to having been introduced to some very creative young musicians on the scene at the time, many of whom have gone on to have reputations as dynamic, powerful and creative forces in the jazz world including Joe Lovano, Kenny Werner, Billy Drewes, Scott Lee, Ratzo Harris, Tom Rainey and others.  They invited me to their jam sessions and I experienced their high level of collaboration.  Sometimes they would start with a song from the Jazz repertoire but soon everyone was improvising freely and creating a collective sense of Composition.   I was accepted as a full member of whatever group was convening at each of these sessions whether I sang words or not and it was a deep school of the Art of Improvisation for me!

In the early 1980’s we did many Monday Night performances at the Washington Square Church, improvising in collaboration with some of my dancer friends.  Around this time I also recorded a Trio Improvisation with the brilliant pianist Kenny Werner on guitarist Michael Bocian’s album “For This Gift” which was produced by Gunther Schuller (whom I’d work with again years later).

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

JS: – I entered into a long period of Study and Practice once I started Improvising.  Having knowledge and experience in using my Vocal Instrumentalready was an invaluable asset to singing in the jazz world.  However I was quite aware of my lack of experience in the Language and the Library of the Jazz Repertoire.  So I began learning some of the songs I had heard for years, and started making the transfer from listening only to someone else’s interpretation of the material to finding the vibrations of these songs and lyrics within myself.  I started by studying the songs I liked: “My One And Only Love” (after hearing Johnny Hartmann and John Coltrane), “Reflections” by Thelonious Monk, “Mood Indigo” by Duke Ellington and my list kept growing for the next 30 years!  I had to try each song in a different range and learned to transpose and re-write all the charts because sometimes I had to change the key every six months!

I was playing with great players in a creative setting so I felt I had to develop a Repertoire of music that I loved to sing so that I had more versatility.  Having focused on singing as an Ensemble Horn Player in these settings, I found it difficult to transition into learning all the Lyrics to each song and finding a way to make the story my own.  So during this same period I also started writing my own songs – at first they were extended compositions more in the classical music style with flexible instrumentation, determined by the people I loved to play with and their instruments.   However I was still studying the Song Form of traditional jazz and the phrasing necessary to tell the story of a song, so it became a practical matter to find my own story and to write songs that expressed my personal feelings and ideas.

Singing is very much like playing a wind instrument.  Phrasing is dependent on the Breath.  And part of the magic of Improvising, is finding a unifying breath within the music and the players who make it happen.  To me, that is how a group of players can spontaneously create a unified musical thought that has life and energy through this sophisticated communication.  They are breathing together!  So while I was writing my own songs, I was experimenting with how the phrases were created and shaped. I learned a lot about phrasing by sharing the “front line” with saxophonists Joe Lovanoand  Billy Drewes, trumpeter Tim Hagans and bassist Scott Lee who all played together as one.

I also formed a Vocal Ensemble that I called “Voices of Juniper” and wrote arrangements for us of classic songs plus some of my own songs.  Some of these were featured on my first recording as Leader called “Dancing Voices” (JSL Records) in 1982.

The most important practice routine that I have consistently focused on in my work is LISTENING.  Listening to the other musicians I am playing with, what their musical contribution is at every moment, allows me to hear WHERE my sound is needed to extend or enlarge the material.  Even if it is to lay out…  If I am only hearing myself, there is no connection.  And I think this is the huge power in Improvisation – the element of COLLABORATION.

Realizing that everyone is a drummer enlarges the possibilities of rhythmic excitement.  Trying to find common unisons with all the rhythms around me helps shape the phrasing of stating whatever musical thought I have and serves to tell each story of each musical impulse.  The point is to make the music sound good, to have a flow and to support each line or rhythm or beat so it can become something that touches people. It’s hard to put into words because it is ephemeral and is sometimes deeply connected to feelings of being human.  To communicate our shared humanity, or to say it more simply, to somehow connect, that is the goal.

Knowing your instrument well is the prerequisite for Improvising, so you can edit what and how you play or sing, WHILE you are playing!  Perhaps it’s a micro-second before you actually play… but I do believe there is a choice in what we play/sing. Out of the vast palette of colors and sounds and rhythms that are at our disposal, we actually choose what we create and how we give our sound into the musical mix.  But it’s a delicate balance because it’s different every single time.  It’s part of life and it’s an ongoing study forever!

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

JS: – I have had a lifetime of intervallic study.  At Temple University College of Music I studied Sightsinging and learned to hear the intervals that I saw on paper.  That is the foundation of my approach.  It enabled me to be a musician in many different settings and to enjoy the different sounds of various styles of music.  There, under the direction of Conductor Robert Page I sang not only challenging intervallic and harmonic small group repertoire but also recorded with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Eugene Ormandy on the groundbreaking score of the “Utrenja Suite” by Kristof Penderecki.   Later in New York, Gunther Schuller’s arrangements and Original orchestrations for Joe Lovano’s “Rush Hour” and Manny Albam’s arrangements for Lovano’s “Celebrating Sinatra” set my Vocal part alternately as part of the String or Woodwind section!

I have always had an affinity for TriTones (augmented 4ths and diminished 5ths) and have not been afraid of what is often called Dissonance.  In fact, this sense of daring and confidence with intervals that are often experienced as difficult and hard to tune, has been a hallmark of many of my improvisations throughout the years.  It is a powerful feeling to share the vibrations of such intervals with fellow musicians and to use the resultant energy to power the music onward!  It makes for a more dynamic journey, I feel!

I am always building on the foundations of my early studies in “finding my own voice”.  And this journey continues to live on for the entire journey of our lifetimes I am glad to say.  I feel as I am maturing, the many threads of my creative education are becoming interwoven into the fabric of my development.

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?

JS: – Be patient and Believe in Yourself!

You must study first – look into everything that goes into making art and music and develop your skills.  Improving yourself is the best investment you can make!

Then you can evolve into your personal version of being expressive by creating your own original sound and songs.

It’s important to realize that you are creating relationships with other players along the way.  Find people that you love to play with, you will see them through the years and those connections will be valuable to creating your best!

After studying Standard songs from the Great American Songbook for the past 30 years at the same time I was writing my own songs and “finding my voice” I see now that I was combining some of each style in my gigs and recording projects all along the way along with my own Originals.  What a mix! And it was true to my heart and that’s what is important to me.

I say, Find your own approach and love it!  Staying positive is a great motivator for making things work and creating more engagement in this business for yourself.  When you love what you do, people will feel that.

JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?

JS: – People with a passion for music create business for themselves because they Live to Play and they Play to Live!

We have to find the balance between the ART of music and the Social Aspects of Sharing your art with people.  There is a great commercialization of Art in our society at large,  but people still hunger for something Real, Individual, Unique, something that Speaks to Them and Echoes their Feelings and Emotions.  There are no guarantees of financial success of course, but when you love and believe in what you do, there’s a big pay-back in other ways.  It’s a way of life for the Artist. And it’s powerful.

My recording career has been a combination of documenting my evolution through my Originals and study of famous songs:

On my Blue Note recording “Vocalise” I included a Strayhorn song (“Daydream”), a Monk tune (“Reflections/Looking Back”) along with songs by Rachmaninoff (“Vocalise”) and Charles Ives (“Serenity”).  That was quite a nod to my early classical roots.  On “Songs I Wrote Or Wish I Did” I recorded “When Love Was You And Me” by Thad Jones and Abbey Lincoln (both big influences through the years) and my beloved “A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing” by Billy Strayhorn.  Then for my mother’s 80th Birthday gift I recorded all her favorite old Standards with Orchestrations by Michael Abene for Septet called “Let Yourself Go” after the tune by Irving Berlin. So I’ve been studying the Masters and practicing my own writing skills at the same time and it’s been fruitful and fun!

At one point I was taking a lot of Yoga classes and decided to record my own music, which resulted in the totally improvised duo “Sound Garden ~ Spirit Music” with Joe Lovano on gongs, percussion, various woodwinds (wood flute, bass recorder) and myself playing Flute, Alto Flute, Alto Recorder, percussion and some vocals.  A few years later I convened my second Vocal Ensemble and recorded “Sound Garden ~ Celestial Voices” of Originals and Improvisations with the very talented Kyoko Kitamura and Marlena Primavera.  I have always loved singing with other voices and this was a joy.

A few years ago I was playing a lot of Standards gigs in upstate NY with the wonderful Freddie Jacobs on trumpet and Peter Tomlinson on piano and the Trio was so much fun that I decided to record some of MY favorite Standards with them.  And so “Indigo Moods” came to be, recorded at the Upland Studio near Woodstock, NY.  Each take was our unique interpretation of these lovely songs with the unusual instrumentation of Piano, Voice and Trumpet.  I love the space and collaborative dynamic of it.  This was also the first time that I used one of my Paintings as cover art, which was cool.

That’s another dimension in my life that I have pursued: I started to study painting about 5 years ago and am enjoying this other way of expressing myself and documenting the world around me. And I have had exhibitions and added to my financial picture in a way that I could not have forseen years ago.  (You can see my paintings page on my website: www.judisilvano.com). In fact, this year the pianist David Janeway licensed one of my paintings (“Musician’s Dream”) on his new CD “Secret Passages”.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

JS: – The Art of Improvising is Timeless.

It doesn’t matter what song you play.  Jazz is about the Art of Improvisation and studying the Elements of the Music.  So it’s not about the Song so much, which may be old.  It’s about the Person and the Creation of Music in the present moment.

New approaches to anything are exciting.  Contemporary interpretations bring a freshness to whatever has been stated before.  Young people understand this.

Individual expression that is a unique and personal creates a style that speaks to people.  When you are starting out, you have to study someone else’s style and story but then you must infuse yourself into the music to keep it real. Young people want to find out who they are and who they can be and the empowerment of trying to find themselves is strong incentive to try this thing called “Improvisation”.

The people who I most like to play with are great improvisers.  Composer and Woodwind Master Joe Lovano is the best example I know of someone who has studied the whole History of Jazz.  He knows so much Repertoire and so many of the Players that he has internalized it all and when he improvises there’s a lot to grab onto. Yet it’s all his own way of playing and it’s Powerful!  Everyone wants to play with him and audiences feel like he is speaking and playing to them individually!   Kenny Werner is my musical brother and we share such a deep trust in playing together.  I feel so lucky that they both can relate to the way I play and sing and that we’ve had the chance to explore a lot of different music together through the years.

Another musician with whom I have been exploring going beyond the Standard Songform is Guitarist Bruce Arnold.  He is knowledgeable in guitar technique, harmonic theory and composition and has also, like me, explored interpreting classical music repertoire through the Jazz lens.  We have been working together for 5 years in my 2-guitar “Zephyr Band” featuring my Original Songs and Stories repertoire (due for Release in Spring 2018).  And for the past 3 years we have been experimenting with my using Live Processing Effects along with his SuperCollider and Pedal setup running through computers.  Our Duo Improvisations in this Electro-Acoustic settinghas been enormously inspiring to me.  He’s got amazing ears and both of our compositional experiences have lead us together to new musical places.  Our recent release, “Listen To This”, is in the running for the 2017 Grammy’s in the Alternative category and you can hear some of this music at:  www.Muse-Eek.com/listen-to-this.  Each piece takes you on a journey.

Bruce and I are about to release a second round of this evocative music in the coming months called “That’s What That Is” of all Improvised soundscapes. In addition, a DVD documenting our Improvisations using Visual Effects and also incorporating an improvising Dancer filmed and edited by videographer Michal Shapiro is in the works.

These recent projects bring my creative life full circle by incorporating dance into the improvised musical movement!

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

JS: – It certainly is a Spiritual Journey to express yourself at a deep level.  It touches your emotions and creates a connectivity among people that is hard to quantify.  It is a powerful non-verbal way of communicating.   It is all about Feeling.  From the Heart.

Soulful expression of your life vision is beyond any technique you may practice or learn. It comes after you have studied your instrument and all the musical structures.  It is using your head for study at first and then going beyond even your body to experience Channeling the Language of the Universe.  It is as if all you have learned goes “out the window” and you are left with the purity of sound and feeling and light.

I think that is why John Coltrane was such a powerful figure.  He had a lifetime of study and kept going beyond where he had been and into the experience of being alive  and playing at that moment.  He was able to tap into a deep well of expression that so many people are able to access and be inspired by his music.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

JS: – As I am maturing I am able to become more free and relaxed in my expression.  I hope to express my musical spirit with more clarity from within my own life’s experiences and communicate my personal journey to listeners.  Learning to paint in the past 5 years has helped me see life from a different perspective and enlarge my tolerance for all the questions that arise from such pursuits.

What brings me anxiety is when I start to desire acceptance from others.  This is dangerous territory because it’s impossible for another to totally comprehend my experience and therefore my expression.  However, I continually have to break through my expectations so that I can connect with others to help me present my musical vision, and now additionally my visual and multi-media interactive visions, in an ego-less way.

To carry on a creative life, you have to be fearless!  The same way I go to hit a note with abandon in my vocal improvisations, I want to describe my creative ideas without reservation.  Words, however, are not always easy for me.

As a Musician, I am Fearless!  I want to be as sure of myself in deciding what to wear for a gig and in talking with promoters and in working on releasing new recordings!  That’s the business part of it all.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

JS: – Utilizing the Electronics to adapt my live-acoustic sound is a fascinating study.  There’s a lot of room for Improvisation to inhabit a healthy part of the learning curve in getting comfortable with choosing and using the Effects that can process my sound.  In a way, it’s call and response.  My creative inputgives me options to then shapemy sound into a dialogue, in a way, with myself and then with other musicians.  There is somehow a warm dynamic in the responsive nature of using the effects software programs and pedal system.  I look forward to more explorations.  Bruce Arnold has been a generous guide in showing me possibilities in using the equipment as an enhancement to our musical ideas and I’m grateful for learning to use these new effects along the way.

Another project that I’ve been wanting to get back to for a long time, is cataloguing and copying my Chamber Music works into computerized Scores.  I have been so busy with my Jazz catalogue and Artwork, that I need to finish, for instance, a Woodwind Quintet score and I have ideas for Voice and Strings.  I would also like to make a recording of pieces that I’ve written through the years.  I see a Grant Application in my future along these lines!

And my recording of 15 new original Songs of Life and Love, which I’m calling “Lessons Learned” for the moment, with my 2-guitar Zephyr Band is ready to be Mastered and I just got a release date with a European label for April 2018!  I’m excited about this and can’t wait to play this material again with my band!

I really want to start practicing my flute and alto flute again regularly.  And of course, continue painting the world as I know it… that will go on…

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

JS: – Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis… really from Duke Ellington on, Jazz has folded all the elements of New Orleans, Italian, Oriental feelings, rhythms of Africa, Dance styles from all over Europe, and more, into the wonderful and vibrant Jazz Approach!

Music is Cosmic and Universal!  It does not exist just in Categories that were set up by Marketing entities and Record Labels and Clubs and put into those Boxes.  Some musicians actually follow that concept about all the different labels and I’ve experienced feeling the pull to do so because of how we have to function in our working lives as musicians. If we want to work. But really, Music Connects People from all over…

The word JAZZ really means the World Of Music as One in personal expression.

Classical Composers were Improvisors!  Mozart was a notorious improviser and quite flashy about it… Bach improvised his Cantata’s and then wrote them down!  Musicians through the ages have used IMPROVISATION as a valued TOOL to find their own “voice” and material to shape into formats that suited their time and place.

Folk Music from all over the world has deep connections of melody, rhythm and dance and has certainly influenced many modern musicians in their compositional efforts. The early songs in our culture were work songs or love songs or spiritual songs of hope and yearning.  That has carried over into today’s subject matter and pop and jazz culture.

Abbey Lincoln was a powerful social commentator who used thematic material from her milieu, from political commentary to philosophical meanderings and simple love songs.  But the way that she delivered her message was raw and unmistakeable.  Her career went through many phases and she continues to influence and is revered by a generation of vocalists, worldwide, including me.  Her daring articulation of Words was eye-opening to me and I realized that I had been mistakenly separating the musical notes from the words assigned to them in telling the song’s story.  I am ever grateful that I lived in NYC and had the opportunity to hear her sing live in clubs many times and got to know her personally.  I even recorded one of her songs “Not to Worry” on my “Women’s Work” CD.  Wow!

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

JS: – I am blessed with a life of being around and knowing creative musicians in the Jazz world that have inspired me and continue to inspire me.  I have known some amazing people, not just listening to their records, but in person. Like Charlie Haden, Dewey Redman, Ornette Coleman, Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Kenny Werner, Paul Motian, McCoy Tyner, Bill Frisell among others. There have been people I’ve been around in the world of Music that we are all One, not separated.  The music of Messaiean and Stravinsky and Poulenc are related and akin to the great music that Jazz musicians have been creating for decades.  The great fluid improvisers weave the colors and sounds of their surroundings into beautiful music.  I listen to it all!

JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?

JS: – My Beyer Dynamic microphone carries me through every musical situation.  But I learned to sing from my diaphragm so if I have to, I can turn up the power! Then it helps if I can plug into a PA System, of course.

One of my songs says it all — “The Music’s In My Body”.  (That is on my upcoming album with my 2-guitar Zephyr Band, due for release in Spring 2018.)  The music is within each of us, no matter what technology we use to deliver it to the outside world! People are the most important part of any setup and being connected is vital!

As I mentioned earlier, for the Electro-Acoustic project I’m working on with Bruce Arnold, I have an array of Eventide patches that go through a Pedal system and Mac Computer so that I can interact with hisSuperCollider processed guitar.  With this unique setup we can create some unique music.

Thanks for the thoughtful questions and I hope my answers are interesting for your readers.

Best Regards, Judi Silvano; Vocalist, Composer, Lyricist, Painter; www.judisilvano.com

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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