has loved musicals since she was little. As a child, she went to Broadway shows, watched movie musicals and listened to her father’s collection of soundtracks. One of her favorites was “Oklahoma!,” which she adored so much that when she turned 11, she asked her parents if they would play the ﬁlm for her friends at her birthday party. Although her friends thought her movie selection was a bit quirky, her early passion developed into a life-long love of the Great American Songbook, the canon of the American popular songs and jazz standards. On her latest recording, Oklahoma
, Silver re-visits her early love of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical with ten of her own jazz interpretations of songs from the show.Oklahoma
is Silver’s fifth CD as a leader and follows Let Me Know Your Heart
(2019), Very Early
(2016), Dream Awhile
(2009), and Here in My Arms
(2004). Christopher Loudon wrote in JazzTimes
, “I knew from the opening track that Silver was something special. Indeed, if a name ever fit a performer, it is Silver’s, for her voice is like pure sterling. Her phrasing is exquisite, her clarity and enunciation on par with the great Jo Stafford and her breath control – a talent so often, and so wrongfully, overlooked – rivals Sinatra’s.”
A regular on the New York City jazz scene, Silver wanted the album to have an intimate, jazz chamber music feel, so she chose voice, guitar and piano for the core group. Silver brought on board some top New York players, including Bruce Barth
(piano) Peter Bernstein
(guitar), Adam Kolker
(alto flute, bass clarinet) and Kahlil Kwame Bell
(percussion). She is also accompanied on three tracks by a string section comprising Sarah Zun
, Adda Kridler
, Kaya Bryla, and Maria Jeffers
With an MBA from Columbia University Business School and jobs in marketing for CBS Masterworks (now Sony Classical) and Chesky Records, Silver enjoys doing research and likes to study the history of songs. The musical “Oklahoma!” was based on the 1931 play “Green Grow the Lilacs” by Lynn Riggs. Although the plots in both the play and the musical are quite similar, Silver learned that important elements of the setting were, in fact, quite different. The Native American population, which was prominent in Riggs’ play, was not acknowledged by Hammerstein. However, Silver pays homage to those Native Americans in the title track, “Oklahoma.” Silver plays the Native American flute, which she learned to play as part of her therapy to treat depression, to introduce and end the song. The airy sounds of the ﬂute, along with Silver’s warm, velvety timbre and the open arrangement with its nod to Native American rhythms and harmonies give the song a spiritual quality. The sound of wind, followed by the evocative harmonies of the string section immerse the listener in the windswept grasslands of turn-of-the-century Oklahoma.
“Many a New Day” is Laurey’s proclamation of feigned indifference after she spots another girl flirting with Curly, her cowboy beau. The song reflects “pride coupled with strength,” says Silver, who finds whimsy in the words and swings the tune. In “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” Hammerstein extols the countryside, where “all the sounds of the earth are like music.” But a metronomic guitar line suggests darkness lurking.
“I Cain’t Say No” is a comic confession by the town vamp, Ado Annie, of her blithely philandering ways. The song, says Silver, “is about what society thinks of you versus who you feel you are.” The stop-time, push-pull rhythm of Barth’s arrangement echoes that tug of war. “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” owes its place in jazz to Miles Davis and Blossom Dearie. Silver departs from their versions by making the song gallop in five-eight, egged on by the hand percussion of Kahlil Kwame Bell. In the sweeping fantasy waltz “Out of My Dreams,” Laurey imagines her wedding to Curly. Silver’s version shows off her velvety low tones, complemented by strings and an airborne flute solo by Adam Kolker.
“People Will Say We’re in Love” is one of the shyest yet tenderest expressions of budding romance in musical theater. Silver calls it a “little dance of vulnerability between the main characters.” The six-eight meter adds a lift of optimism.The mood is jolly in “Kansas City,” a goggle-eyed report on a town where “everything’s up to date.” Barth channels Erroll Garner
in his rollicking solo. “Boys and Girls Like You and Me” was cut from Oklahoma! prior to the opening. Silver’s wistful reading focuses on the things in life that bind us all together.
Finally, in a reprise of the title tune, she returns to the straight-ahead jazz style that is home to her. Silver’s vision of Oklahoma!
is one of far-off characters who depict universal truths; she expresses these with clarity, directness, and heart.Mark Murphy
described Silver’s voice as having “that rare quality of light infectious swing that lights up her tall willowy persona.” Indeed, with her luminous voice and innate musicality, Silver shines a new light on the chestnuts from Oklahoma! and imbues them with her own distinct personality without straying from the elements that have ensconced these songs firmly in the Great American Songbook.
About Audrey Silver
Growing up in a musical family, Audrey Silver was born and raised in New York City. Originally trained as a classical pianist and cellist, she loved jazz at an early age and co-founded Brown University’s first coed, jazz a cappella group, The Higher Keys. She began her singing career in earnest in 1998 when she teamed with Jon Raney, son of pianist Jimmy Raney, and produced her first demo with the help of Ronnie Zito (Woody Herman, Bobby Darin) and Jay Leonhart (Judy Garland, Tony Bennett). She went on to hone her craft through private study with Shelia Jordan and Mark Murphy. She has performed at some of New York’s best-known jazz clubs and music venues, including Zinc Bar, Jazz at Kitano, 55 Bar, and Cornelia Street Cafe. Nationally, she has performed at large festivals and venues around the country, including the Tanglewood Jazz Festival and the JVC Jazz Festival. Silver is also an accomplished songwriter and was a semi-finalist in the 2016 edition of the international Songwriting Competition.Oklahoma
is set for release on October 6, 2023 and will be available everywhere