Night at the Movies
Street Date: September 20, 2019
Growing up in Soviet Russia as a young girl, singer Svetlana dreamed of a world beyond her grim reality. In the midst of Soviet oppression, Svetlana found solace at The Illusionist, a hidden movie theater in Moscow that frequently featured Western films and animated features. These movies were a breath of fresh air; a window into a world that a girl like her could only dream of. She was enraptured by the glamour of Catherine Deneuve in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Sophie Lauren in Marriage Italian Style, lifted by the humor of Louis de Funès in the Le Gendarme movies, and taken by the feeling of unbounded artistic expression and story-telling that was not answering to any political regime.
Informed by her experiences at the cinema and her imagination and artistic spirit, she began dreaming of the world beyond Russia. Years later, Svetlana made that dream a reality when she immigrated to the United States, and settled in New York where she first became an accomplished business woman and professor before realizing her childhood artistic dreams. As a musician, Svetlana rose to prominence as an in-demand singer and entertainer. She launched Svetlana and the Delancey Five, considered “outstanding” by Will Friedwald of the Wall Street Journal, and the group became known as “one of the best of the many hot jazz bands to emerge in the past decade” (according to Alan Young of Lucid Culture). The group toured nationally and across the world and released their critically acclaimed debut recording A Night At The Speakeasy (Origin) in 2015.
On her new recording, Night at the Movies, Svetlana revisits her love for the artform that has inspired her so: the movies. On September 20th, 2019, the singer known as the “Astrud Gilberto via Moscow” (Grammy-winning Producer Guy Ecksteine) will release her sophomore effort. Night at the Movies is a fourteen-track collection of film music that spans a century of cinema. Produced by veteran, Grammy-nominated producer Matt Pierson and featuring arrangements by Grammy-winner Gil Goldstein and acclaimed Rob Garcia, Night at the Movies takes listeners on a dynamic musical journey that ranges from the French New Wave and Soviet Cinema, to modern day Academy Award-winners and animated classics. The album release concert will take place on September 21st atJoe’s Pub in New York City. A full tour with performances in Washington DC, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Georgia, California and more will be formally announced shortly.
For Night at the Movies’ rich orchestrations and invigorating arrangements, Pierson and Svetlana assembled a who’s-who of heavy contemporary jazz figures including Wycliffe Gordon (trombone /vocals), Sullivan Fortner(piano), Matt Wilson (drums), Pasquale Grasso (guitar), Rogerio Bocatto (percussion), Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet),Chico Pinheiro (guitar), Sam Sadigursky (reeds), and Michael Davis (trombone). Rounding out the rhythm section is John Chin (piano), Elias Bailey (bass), and Rob Garcia (drums). Also featured is a string section withAntoine Silverman (violin), Entcho Todorov (violin), Chris Cardona (viola), and Emily Brausa (cello).
Every song on Night at the Movies tells a distinctive story. Svetlana reinvents Sting’s “In the Moonlight” (Sabrina, 1995), as a pillowy bossa bolstered by lush strings – expressing hushed magic of the night, longing for a better future and fear of whether the magic lasts beyond the moonlight. Svetlana bridges the century of movie music by jousting with Wycliffe Gordon’s croon and horn on two life-affirming tunes – a classic Ella / Louis rendition of “Cheek to Cheek” (Top Hat, 1934) and a bluesy version of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” (Despicable Me, 2010). The two express a jauntiness and warmth of interlocking vocal soloing that showcase the strong musical connection between the two friends.
Sullivan Fortner glistens eerily on “When You Wish Upon a Star”(Pinocchio, 1940) with a hushed anticipation that echoes his work with vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant for sheer rapture. Svetlana’s vocals sound vulnerable, much like when one speaks aloud of their far-fetched dreams. “Remember Me” (Coco, 2018) juxtaposes Svetlana’s airy vocal delivery with John Chin’s fiery piano verve, hinting at the heartbreaking duality between the beautiful memories of those we love and the deep sadness of losing them. Svetlana weaves a dreamy smoky bolero on “Pure Imaginationl (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, 1971), accented by Chin’s tranquil Rhodes, Roggerio Boccato percussion and a poignant horn section.
Svetlana gives us a glimpse of her Russian “other-wordiness” (All About Jazz) by adding a subtle tropical flavor to a pensive Russian-language ballad “Noone’s In the House” (Irony of Fate, 1978 – and the Soviet counterpart to It’s A Wonderful Life with darker lyrics by the embattled Soviet poet and dreamer Boris Pasternak) complimented by Boccato’s enigmatic percussion and Pinheiro’s subtle groove. Her meditative, expanded take of “Moon River” has a breathtaking dreaminess and vastness low-lit by Chico Pinheiro’s guitar and a hushed horn section. Svetlana’s daughter Isabel joins her in a soothing conversation on the Charlie Chaplin classic “Smile” (Modern Times, 1936), which speaks to the timelessness of film and music that can cross generations and cultures.
There are several more unexpected takes on movie classics courtesy of Gil Goldstein’s arranger’s pen: a vulnerable “It Might Be You” (Tootsie, 1982); the New Orleans-inspired “Watch What Happens”(The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, 1964) a dreamy-eyed enticement of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sooner or Later” (Dick Tracy, 1990) where Matt Wilson and Sullivan Fortner subtlety channel decades of torchy saloon balladry; and a dixieland rave-up of Randy Newman’s “Almost There” (Princess & The Frog, 2009) that is supported by hot jazz super-team Gordon, Fortner, and Jon-Erik Kellso.
The album concludes with “Over the Rainbow” (Wizard of Oz, 1939), a pensive duet with Sony recording artist Pasquale Grasso. The concluding song brings the album full circle as it connects Svetlana’s childhood hopes of making that magical land from the movies a reality.
Film and music both express a fleeting beauty. Night at the Movies reflects these moments of joy and passion, sharp humor and reflection, and most of all, fantasy. Svetlana’s childhood dreams were born from that mysterious movie projector and this is her love-letter back to the cinema that saved her.
"From Russian cinema, the French New Wave, modern Oscar-winners and animated classics, she takes songs and molds them into her own oeuvre. It’s a far cry from the hot-jazz Roaring Twenties brand of reckless abandon that got her this far. Keep in mind, back then, for both audiences and musicians alike, there was the illicit thrill of drinking and dancing to hot jazz when you knew the police could bust in at any time and haul everyone off to jail. It gave the music an edge… like fifties rock ‘n’ roll. Svetlana’s new sound is sumptuous and sophisticated now but make no mistake about it: she’s not abandoning her roots."
NEW YORK MUSIC DAILY
"The erstwhile leader of longtime New York swing jazz favorites the Delancey 5 has never sounded more lustrous, or more dynamic than with this particular project." Review here.
“If you dig movie music or cabaret feeling jazz on tunes you know and love, this is the place for a great listening experience. Well done.” Read the full review here.
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"Svetlana is a wonderful singer, drawing the listener into the worlds these songs evoke."
In the Swing of Things: An Interview with Back Room Speakeasy host Svetlana Shmulyian - Read full interview here.
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"New York-based jazz singer Svetlana steps away momentarily from her hot band, The Delancey Five, to turn out Night at the Movies (STARR), a studio album of beloved American movie tunes that captured her imagination as a child growing up in Soviet Russia."