There was no way on Earth I would've expected what I got in Judi Silvano's My Dance. From the cover, a smiling snap of the singer athwart a garden setting, I thought "Hmmm, a Judy Collins / Janis Ian gig". Then I noted the attribution of the CD being just her dueting with pianist Michael Abene, so I revised that: a stripped-down Joan Baez kinda thing, right? Hoo-boy, was I ever off base on that! The crashing Jarrett-esque chords, abstract and jagged, in opening moments of the first cut, Dust, were the first indication. Then Silvano entered with scat encantations complementing the angular instrumental lines, and I harked back to Pepe Lemer with Turning Point as well as aspects an old obscure disc of The National Gallery's Performing Musical Interpretations of the Paintings of Paul Klee (1968, on the Philips label, and exceedingly hard to find, so don't even try—go to YouTube instead).
Make It a Classic, on Dust's heels, is more stripped down, pointillistic, but with lyrics following behind the piano before stepping out in front in the refrain. At that, all notions of folk and soft rock went out the window: this is modernist jazz, y'all, even chamber-jazz. F Minor is my favorite track, very obtuse but linear nonetheless, sounding like a recitation in the hidden arbor of an abbey far from civilization, meditative but hip, something Merton-esque young monks might be caught at after hours, weary of tired old dogmas and devotionals, a bit exasperated with the hierarchy of clerics, seeking creative expression well detached from the dust and reliquaries of dank history. Kokopelli's Dance, the next song in line, has a Nina Simone feel to it, and that's always a good thing.
There are a number of problems to My Dance, though. It's so Amazing sounds like a first take that should've been replaced by a third or fourth, as though something Silvano performed just after waking from eight hours of sleep, flat and uninspired, Abene's comping just as illucid (except in the middle eight, where he takes off and flies). The song's nine-tenths dead despite attempts to ramp up in the last movement…and it's not the only track suffering from the problem. Too, the recording of the CD often sounds as though open miked, the piano frequently a bit distant, the overall signal mono-dimensional. The technical processes, obviously, weren't terribly sophisticated. Silvano and Abene have toured and recorded with top-rate musicians (Jack DeJohnette, Liza Minelli, Dianne Reeves, Gunther Schiller, Bill Frisell, and many others), so I'm not sure there's a justification for that…though I suspect the reason is a common one: no producer is cited in the liner notes, which leads me to believe Judi made it a self-produced affair, and that's frequently a mistake.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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