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.
This past February, Svetlana and her award-winning band The New York Collective utilized their competitive Jazz Road touring grant to embark on a two-part road tour. After a successful first leg, Svetlana and The New York collective will begin touring again this month with their Fall Southern Tour. During this tour, Svetlana will present her critically acclaimed album Night At The Movies, which ranked #1 on Billboard's Traditional Jazz Album chart. Read the full article here.
Renowned vocalist Svetlana has unveiled a bonus track off her latest album, Night at the Movies, released last September. “Young and Beautiful” was originally interpreted by Lana Del Rey and heard on the 2013 film version of The Great Gatsby. Svetlana’s version was arranged by Gil Goldstein and the vocalist explains: “I was motivated to release this song to join other musicians who are uplifting listeners’ spirits with their music as the world is struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic.” Read the full article here.
C. MICHAEL BAILEY
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Sventlana beautifully addresses the hope in uncertainty and the love in the face of privation. It is nice to receive a present that one is not expecting and Svetlana has blessed us with a great one." Read the full review 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."
THE ABSOLUTE SOUND
"Originally from Russia, the singer Svetlana heads the Delancey Five, whose hot jazz and swing music filled up NYC dance floors until the pandemic struck. She slows things way down on Night at the Movies, which combines her fondness for gorgeous melodies and dreamy lyrics with her love for films. You’ve quite possibly listened to “Moon River,” “When You Wish Upon a Star,” “Over the Rainbow,” “Cheek to Cheek,” and “Smile” countless times, but hearing them sung with so much fresh enthusiasm makes them vital again. And the theme songs from newer films share the same warm glow; in fact, by the time the opening track (“Moonlight,” from 1995’s Sabrina) concludes, the seductive spell has already been cast. The accompaniment on Night at the Movies ranges from plush to minimal, and the instrumentalists include in-demand pianist Sullivan Fortner. Wycliffe Gordon shares the vocal duties on “Cheek to Cheek” and “Happy,” and Svetlana’s daughter, Isabel Braun, adds more charm to “Smile.” Read the full article here.
D. OSCAR GROOMES
"Svetlana makes the ordinary unusually good by changing tempos and infusing exciting arrangements to bring freshness into these silver screen classics." Read the full review here.
"Singer Svetlana brings joy to a cover of Pharrell Williams' positive pop hit Happy." Check out the track premiere here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"Some singers just have the “It” factor in their tone and presentation. Svetlana has a voice you will remember and you will probably recognize that voice immediately once you hear it again.." Read the full review here.
MICHAEL DOHERTY'S MUSIC LOG
"Vocalist Svetlana Shmulyian, on her new album Night At The Movies, performs some of that excellent material, choosing songs from the 1930s all the way up to current cinema."
C. MICHAEL BAILEY
"Svetlana’s light voice, too intelligent to be coquettish, is well suited for her repertoire." Read the full review here.
GEORGE W HARRIS
"Svetlana Shmulyian has been described as “Astrud Gilberto in New York via Moscow” by my childhood friend Guy Eckstine, and that’s a clever way of reading this lady’s wide range of talents." Read the full review here.
"Svetlana feels equally good in romantic ballads such as Pure Imagination or Moonlight, and in acutely characteristic dynamic songs like Happy, where she also demonstrates her excellent vocals. " Read the full review here.
DON JAY SMITH
"Svetlana’s warm personality shines, whether she is belting out an up-tempo, sizzling favorite or capturing the romanticism of a sultry ballad."Read the full review here.
"It seems impossible that an artist could make music sound this effortless and delicate, sincere, and ethereal and yet Svetlana has done just that. The video, by award-winning animator Onome Ekeh enhances the experience of discovering an exhilarating voice and her particular view of a familiar song." Premiere here.
"There's so much genuine heart and soul to Svetlana Shmulyian's rendition of "Happy" - the song Pharrell Williams made ubiquitous as part of the soundtrack for 2013's Despicable Me 2 - that it transcends a mere designation of cover song. " Premiere here.
JAZZ BLUES NEWS
She sings cinematic songs from all the decades... A highlight hearkens back to her homeland: “No One’s Home,” sung in Russian. Read the full review here.
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.
"From Russian cinema, the French New Wave, modern Oscar-winners and animated classics, she takes songs and molds them into her own oeuvre... Svetlana’s new sound is sumptuous and sophisticated now but make no mistake about it: she’s not abandoning her roots." Feature here.
THE SYNCOPATED TIMES
"The whole thing is such a big theatrical blast." Read the full review here.
"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." Check out the full 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.
"JazzTimes is honored to present the premiere of the video for “Cheek to Cheek” by Svetlana featuring special guest Wycliffe Gordon." Watch the video release 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.