By Nicole Itkin

Dim lights and comforting jazz. 

It’s the last day of the Gabrielle Stravelli Trio’s month-long residency at famed jazz club Birdland. Stravelli’s vocals are soothing  and create a calming ambiance in the already-lovely club, singing a set ranging from age-old classics to those she and her band–Michael Kanan (piano) and Pat O’Leary (bass)– wrote together.

Stravelli has been singing with her band for twelve years, and it’s clear that Stravelli is proud, grateful, and supportive. She dances along joyfully to their solos and calls them out by name repeatedly, calling for the audience to give them a round of applause.

As she sings, her vocals are lovely and strong, and she guides us through song after song: odes to love and joy and companionship. Her performance makes clear that she’s in love with music and song. While singing “I Won’t Dance” by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, she points out the rhyme the songwriters managed with the word “asbestos”–  a clear win in her book. She tells us singing makes her happy. That’s clear– and she can sing. But it’s a tempered performance making me wonder… what if there was a little more. Song? Anecdote? What if we just had more? 

Clinking forks sound from across the packed hall. Indeed, my meal is delicious. Unfortunately, her performance felt more like an accompaniment to my meal, than my meal an accompaniment to her performance. 

In a song off of her new album coming out in May, she sings: “this world could crumble, but if he’s there who cares.” There’s something there that’s rather representative of the evening; the “he” in question is an easy sign of stability. Stability and variation, or the unpredictable, aren’t necessarily contradictions, but they do often refuse to come toe to toe. In my experience of the night, while listening to the performance, we in the audience were miles away from the cold, from fear, and also from the unpredictable.

No song was particularly surprising, but every song was beautifully pitched and stunningly delivered. The room was packed, the applause was loud, and it was a great evening.

Give her album a listen when it comes out! It should be a good time: comforting, gentle, warm. Not something that will wake you up, but not something that’ll relax you. A calming influence– something to parallel our need for excitement.

The Gabrielle Stravelli Trio at BIRDLANDStravelli (vocals), Michael Kanan (piano), and Pat O’Leary (bass)