Alex Henderson, New York City Jazz Record

My Dance came as a surprise to longtime followers of singer Judi Silvano in 2014. More than the fact that her only accompaniment was Michael Abene (of MDR Big Band fame) was that Silvano was performing exclusively original material. Although Silvano had included original songs on previous releases, familiar standards were often used as vehicles for improvisation. Silvano the composer takes center stage once more with Lessons Learned.

The vocalist uses a full band to bring her material to life: Kenny Wessel (guitar), Adam Kolker (bass clarinet, tenor and soprano saxophones), Ratzo. B Harris (bass), BobMeyer (drums), and Todd Isler (percussion). Silvano’s husband Joe Lovano, who produced the session, is featured on tenor saxophone for two selections: the probing, 11-minute “Riding a Zephyr” and noir-ish “Dust”, which hints at the music of Ethiopia and Mali.The singer’s more abstract  side asserts itself on the funky yet angular “The Music’s in My Body” and “Dark Things”, which employs a choppy. punk-ish beat. This is a consistently introspective album and the latter tune finds Silvano examining some darker thoughts. But more often than not, Lessons Learned has a more optimistic outlook; Silvano is definitely seeing the glass as half-full on contemplative offerings such as “Hand and Heart”, “You Will Know”, “Round and Round” and “Castle Song”. “Shuffle and Sway” has the feeling of an African-American spiritual, recalling some of Abbey Lincoln’s collaborations with Max Roach. The defiant, soulful tune is about demanding positive changes in one’s life and letting go of negative things that aren’t working.

Silvano achieves a healthy balance of the melodic and cerebral. Many jazz vocalists shy away from composing original material, but Silvano is not one of them. She is as skillful a writer as she is a singer and Lessons Learned, like My Dance four years ago, is a fine product of both.”

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