Gabrielle Stravelli at Birdland

Gabrielle Stravelli makes it look easy. Were it not for formidable technique, one might equate performance with a shrug. Flexible alto slip sides from pearly to crackling. Melisma (a group of notes or tones sung on one syllable) is expert. Vocal embroidery never strays too far from melodic signposts. Stravelli puts her own subtle stamp on everything with such obvious pleasure, we can’t help but ride tandem.

“Too Marvelous for Words” (Richard Whiting/Johnny Mercer) opens this evening with buoyancy. Piano dances around melody while bass incorporates it. “Isn’t It a Lovely Day?” (Irving Berlin), she asks leaning out towards the audience with candor. It’s an easy, soft shoe tempo; flirty. Her eyebrows rise.

The first of two deft pairings, Billy Strayhorn’s “Day Dream” and Ignacio Brown/Gus Kahn’s “You Stepped Out of a Dream” seem to follow as if written together. Stravelli rolls “day” around her mouth- savoring before it exits. Her head turns as if music slides from one side to the other. Seamless and bridgeless (a neat trick) we segue to a swinging “Dream.” The vocalist bubbles, bounces. Is she aware one hand moves slowly down the side of her body almost caressing?

The second is Rodgers and Hart’s “Little Girl Blue” (which Stravelli first learned at an unprepared 15) with Chet Forrest/Robert White’s “Blue World.” “Little Girl” floats in light, but not fragile. She sighs the lyric. “Blue World” is a slow foxtrot. “So sit there and count the raindrops,” the vocalist sings in pristine a capella.

“Love Me or Leave Me” (Walter Donaldson/Gus Kahn) begins with finger snaps and syncopated bass, so cool a sound, one can’t help but wish the entire song would be offered this way. Piano comes in like flannel ballast, bass as if pinking shears. “My love is your love,” she grins.

Its rarely heard verse introduces “It Was Written on the Stars” (Harold Arlen/ Leo Robin). Low/hushed, it’s an unadulterated, grade A, unhomogenized ballad performed without fuss or fancy digression; an after hours piano conjuring regulars who nurse last call drinks; utter romance. “Day In, Day Out” (Rube Bloom/ Johnny Mercer) follows, up tempo, happy, with a segment of terrific, unique scat. The set closes with a cozy encore of “I Walk a Little Faster” (Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh); confident anticipation.

Stravelli is genial, providing just enough connecting patter to make things a tad more personal. Musicians are complicitous, skilled, creative; arrangements successfully bespoke. A good time.

Photos courtesy of the performer

Gabrielle Stravelli at Birdland
MD/Piano- Michael Kanan; Pat O’Leary- bass
315 West 44th Street                                     
Tuesdays through July. All different sets

About Alix Cohen (1350 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.