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Fans stood in the aisles at Joe's Pub on January 11, 2007 to hear Aga Zaryan, a Warsaw-based singer currently touring in the US to promote her second CD, Picking Up The Pieces. The biggest criticism to levy against Zaryan is that the set was too short for her estimable talents and, absent any plans for expanding the size of the room at Joe's Pub, perhaps Zaryan's two US gigs could be expanded to a run somewhere else in town (Zaryan had performed the evening before at Washington, DC's premier jazz club, Blues Alley). At Joe's Pub, Zaryan's repertoire derived primarily from selections on the recent CD, an engaging collection of standards and jazz renditions of more eclectic tunes. She remained true to the recorded performance, and while she doesn't scat on her CD or on stage, her phrasing and arrangements demonstrate a solid understanding of the jazz vocal idiom. Clearly Zaryan has done her homework both as a singer and as a jazz musician. Well-schooled in classical and jazz vocal music, Zaryan has taken top honors in jazz competitions, received grants to study jazz in the US and toured internationally with her quartet. Her confidence as a singer is palpable, as is her appeal. At Joe's Pub, she opened with "The Man I Love," taken against convention as an up- tempo tune. Her imaginative take on the Gershwin melody line and her unswerving sense of time were worth the revisit to the classic torch song. Other honorable mentions: her rendition of Billy Strayhorn's "Day Dream as a rhythmically sure-footed but understated duet with bassist Alexis Cuadrado and the blues tune "Woman's Work, a wry and infectious composition by Darek Oles (also the bassist on Zaryan's CD). Pianist Bryan Roberts and drummer Mark Ferber completed Zaryan's New York trio. Zaryan closed with a dedication to the late Shirley Horn, "Here's To Life, from Horn's 1992 album of the same name. Excepting two songs in Polish (the theme from the film Rosemary's Baby by Krzysztof Komeda and Howard Dietz's "You and The Night and The Music ). All of these tunes are on the albumfor fans who missed Zaryan's all-too-brief visit to New York.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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