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Lisa Sokolov: A Quiet Thing

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Singer Lisa Sokolov knows how to make songs her own. Master vocalist, renowned improviser, music therapist, and lay cantor, New York-based Sokolov reaches into the inner, quiet soul of the 12 songs, standards, and even the Jewish liturgy and a modern poem on A Quiet Thing. She rediscovers songs that become an important part of our emotional and intellectual world in times of crises, doubt, and solitude. She breathes new life in these songs, reshapes and reharmonizes them, charging them with emotional intensity and immediate intimacy, while surpassing familiar interpretations or stylistic conventions. On this fifth release Sokolov opts for a more intimate performances—in studio sessions and in live concerts at The Stone in Manhattan and in Garmisch Parten-Kirchen in Germany— accompanying herself on the piano or in close collaborations with drummer Gerry Hemingway, bassist Cameron Brown, and pianist John DiMartino.

The songs are arranged as a cycle that begins with solitude and concludes with a full awakening to the beauty of the world, a spiritual enlightenment. Sokolov begins the solitude related section with "My One And Only Love," the standard that Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane notably performed together, accompanying herself with spare piano playing and emphasizing the "mystic charms" of love. She resurrects "Succotash"—one of the most playful songs of Hemingway from his masterpiece, Songs (Between The Lines, 2002), where she was the lead singer—in an extroverted, merry-go-round interpretation. She turns to a slow reading of the standard, "You Go To my Head," which is so closely identified with Billie Holiday, evoking the feelings of longing and need. She then turns Marvin Gaye's "You're All That I Need" into an emotional plea about connection and devotion.

Her cover of the Billy Strayhorn standard "Lush Life," made famous by Nat "King" Cole, with only Brown accompanying her on the bass, radiates much more hope about the power of love than many former interpretations that focused on the story of failed love. Sokolov's duet with her son Jake Sokolov-Gonzalez on the Yom Kippur Jewish prayer, "Kol Nidre" is one of the emotional climaxes of this release. It not only highlights the intimacy between mother and son, but also the metaphorical intimacy between generations upon generations, all seeking through prayer comfort in higher force. She takes the classic melancholy story of African-American hardship and struggles, "Ol' Man River," a song made famous by Paul Robeson, and dedicates it to her colleagues such as Nina Simone who stood against injustice and repression. Her short "Dream Haiku" is a beautiful story about spiritual transformation in which she contemplates who wrote this song, much in the same vein of the famous Taoist tale about the sage Chuang Tzu who dreamt that he was a butterfly.

Her original "She Is Standing" is a hopeful feminine anthem for independence and vitality, while Garcia Lorca's lament on the death of a bullfighter, "El Silencio"—sung in Spanish and English—tells the dramatic story with restraint and reconciliation. Sokolov concludes with two short and quiet songs that summarize this magnificent journey into the soul of songs. "Walk in Beauty" states that all we long for is right here, right now, and we are surrounded by the ecstasy. Once we realize that simple but true wisdom we move into a still place, waking up in communion with silence in "A Quiet Thing".


Track Listing: My One And Only Love; Succotash; You Go To My Head; You're All I Need To Get By; Lush Life; Kol Nidre; Ol' Man River; Dream Haikul She Is Standing; El Silencio; Walk In Beauty; A Quiet Thing.

Personnel: Lisa Sokolov: vocals, piano (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11); Todd Reynolds: violin (2, 9, 10); Cameron Brown: bass (2, 5, 9); Gerry Hemingway: drums (2, 9); John DiMartino: piano (3, 8); Jake Sokolov-Gonzalez: cello (6); Kermit Driscoll: electric bass (4).

Title: A Quiet Thing | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Laughing Horse Records

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