NY Music Review By Eric J. Grimm
Gabrielle Stravelli has a lovely show directed by cabaret all-star Marilyn Maye playing at the Metropolitan Room this month. It’s a well-manicured set of standards and reworkings of pop songs from past and present. Stravelli’s good-spirited nature comes across in her performance style. You can hear her smiling as she’s belting and hitting ethereal high notes.
Highlights of Stravelli’s set include a bouncy cover of Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks,” which makes it seem as though it were written specifically for her. She nods appreciatively throughout the number, as if to ask, “Can you believe we’re all here?” Her thunderous and biting take on Johnny Mercer’s classic “Goody Goody” was perhaps the biggest hit of the night and for good reason. Stravelli beams with joy and gives a conversational quality to the song’s vengeful lyrics. In addition to well-known tunes, she sings “Runnin’ Back For More,” a jazzy number she co-wrote with bassist Pat O’Leary and Jason Robinson, that fits in perfectly with tunes from the likes of Cole Porter.
Stravelli’s voice is precise and without too much ornamentation. While it mostly lends well to these songs, it did not quite work with her mash-up of Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and Dolly Parton’s “Touch Your Woman.” The former song calls for a vocal quality that’s at least slightly rough around the edges, not just because Franklin’s timbre has that signature rasp. The song provides an opportunity for her to let loose and I would like to see her do that in the future. That said, she follows it up with a well-executed cover of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” by Creedence Clearwater Revival’s similarly raspy John Fogerty. Her version is appropriately melancholic and provided a nice counterbalance to the peppier numbers.
Stravelli performs like a star, but she eschews diva status in favor of a sense of deeply felt collaboration. Maye has, no surprise, skillfully directed the tight and effective show, clearly recognizing Stravelli’s stratospheric potential. Stravelli shows great chemistry throughout with her band members: pianist Joshua Richman, drummer Eric Halvorson, and aforementioned bassist Pat O’Leary. It’s the sense of community that makes Stravelli’s show so warm and indicative of a rich career ahead of her.
Photos: Russ Weatherford Video: Magda Katz
Gabrielle Stravelli is playing at Metropolitan Room from July 17-July 31. For tickets, visit www.metropolitanroom.com