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Audrey Silver - Oklahoma
(Messy House Records, 2023)
For her fifth release, New York City vocalist Audrey Silver wanted an intimate, jazz chamber music experience. To achieve this, she chose a voice, guitar, and piano format for her core instrumentation. It was easy for Silver to make this happen considering the talent pool available to her with additional ornamentation added. Pianist Bruce Barth and guitarist Peter Bernstein are her rhythm section, augmented by the best musicians NYC has to offer.
Silver selected Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical Oklahoma! as her creative vehicle. The musical has curiously contributed few selections to the book of jazz standards, save for “Surrey With The Fringe On Top” which was recorded by everyone from pianist Ahmad Jamal to The Ray Coniff Singers. Silver takes a deep dive into the musical’s book, reframing the agrarian subject matter as sleek and fresh mainstream jazz exploration.
The show theme opens and closes the recital. The opening is taken ballad slow and features Silver’s Native American flute which gives the performance a spiritual gravity. Silver’s voice is the real star here, a solid alto able to repel bullets at perfect pitch. The closing version swings breezily, the arrangement opening the song up like a splash of water in whiskey and allowing Silver to warm up and display her impressive chops.
This breezy character is the element integrating the project. “Many A New Day” relies on the simplicity of the duo guitar-piano support, the sum of the whole being greater than its parts. Barth and Bernstein share an intense empathy for this music. The arrangement and instrumentation on “Oh What A Beautiful Morning.” Silver begins to sing over a cello pizzicato 4/4 that is supplemented by the remainder of a string quartet given a deep reedy bottom by Adam Kolker’s bass clarinet. A gently swinging straight jazz interlude intervenes for Barth's tightly conceived solo before the song enters its pastoral coda.
“Surrey With The Fringe On Top” is presented briskly by the duo rhythm section and percussionist Kahlil Kwame Bell. Silver sings with a robust, but relaxed, confidence. Bernstein solos providing further obligato support. Bernstein introduces an intimate, small club “Kansas City,” illustrating what Silver already knew: that less is more when you have an instrument like she has. Audrey Silver provides a thoroughly enjoyable experience with her inventive reading of this musical.