Judi Silvano

What Judi Silvano has been able to accomplish thus far gives the appearance of multiple artists’ careers strung together — but it’s all Judi. In fact, she’s always got a new project ready to fly, oftentimes dovetailing and overlapping her previous efforts.
Born in Philadelphia, with a degree (in both Music and Dance) from Temple University, Judi made her way to New York City in 1976 where she launched her career as an improviser — of dance at first. But jazz would not be far behind.
An alchemist of music and movement, her career as a choreographer and dancer led her straight to NYC’s downtown music scene where her improvisational spirit could run free. It also steered her toward what would become a long-term collaboration with saxophonist Joe Lovano that began in 1980 and continues to this day.
Throughout the ’80s, you could also find Judi on any given Monday night at the Village Vanguard where the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra held forth, soaking in the great charts of Thad Jones. Before long, Judi could sing along with all the lead trumpet parts. You can trace the roots of her unique horn-like approach to vocalizing directly to this experience as well as having grown up listening to older brother Dan’s trombone playing and listening habits.
To date, Judi Silvano has 10 recordings to her credit, including 1997’s “Vocalise” on the Blue Note label and a landmark duo recording with Billie Holiday’s last accompanist, the great pianist Mal Waldron, “Riding A Zephyr”, released in 2002 on Soul Note Records. She’s led multiple vocal groups from Voices of Juniper to Voices Together, won numerous awards and grants (Meet the Composer and New York State Council on the Arts two times), been named one of the Top 10 Vocalists in Down Beat magazine 4 times and has contributed as a jazz journalist to All About Jazz & Jazz Improv Magazine for several years.
Notable cross-over projects include Silvano as the subject of “Sketches for Silvano” written by composer Lori Dobbins for vibes, percussion and voice (Inspirations on Capstone Records) and pianist/ composer Kenny Werner’s “No Beginning, No End” which was commissioned by MIT and premiered in May 2007. This dramatic and challenging score was written for her and noted saxophonist Joe Lovano along with a Woodwind and Percussion Ensemble and a recording was released in 2009 by Half Note Records to excellent reviews.
As a gifted educator with a great heart (that comment comes straight from her students), Ms. Silvano has passed on her knowledge and experience to a multitude of young musicians both privately and through her Vocal Improv workshops in NYC, and at such esteemed institutions as Banff International Center for the Arts, Manhattan School of Music, Vassar College, Rutgers University and Hasadna Conservatory in Jerusalem. As a progressive composer and arranger, Judi Silvano’s work has been recognized by the industry in many ways, including taking First Prize in The Brooklyn Lager Band Search at the original Knitting Factory, with judging for the Search led by trumpeter Lester Bowie and Best Jazz Vocalist of the Hudson Valley. Silvano has written over 45 pieces for jazz and chamber music ensembles as well as a-capella vocal arrangements, incorporating improvisation with written material.
Silvano dons the “Producer’s Hat” quite often, notably a Vocal Series at Cornelia St, Cafe in lower Manhattan for 3 years after the attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11. Recent efforts in NYC clubs include presentations featuring established and emerging vocalists spanning a deliciously eclectic array of themes including: “A Tribute to Monk”, “Sephardic Meets Jazz”, “New Songs for Singers” (which included 14 singers presenting new repertoire), and with jazz journalist Lara Pellegrinelli, an evening of alternative lyrics to songs entitled “Strangers in the Night – An Evening of Uncommon Lyrics to the Great American Songbook”. Since 2003 she has been researching under-performed compositions by American Jazz women and presents an annual concert to celebrate Women’s History Month. She also produced a concert of vocalist Mark Murphy’s songs with many of his students contributing their interpretations.
The roster of musicians with whom Silvano has collaborated, performed, recorded and/or toured reads like a Who’s Who of Jazz. A short list of these stellar artists includes Kenny Werner, Joe Lovano, Tom Rainey, Billy Drewes, Ratzo B. Harris, Bill Frisell, Tim Hagans, Paul Motian, Charlie Haden, Jack DeJohnette, Gunther Schuller, Erik Friedlander, George Garzone, Manny Albam, Dave Holland, Marilyn Crispell, Dave Douglas, Mike Formanek, Gerry Hemmingway, Michael Abene, Rufus Reid, Ingrid Jensen, Dick Oatts, Janice Friedman, Allison Miller, Jennifer Vincent, Newman Taylor Baker, Christopher Dean Sullivan, Neil Alexander, Bernice “Boom Boom” Brooks, Stefan Bauer, Chris Bacas, John Lockwood, Bob Gullotti, “Sweet” Sue Terry, Yoron Israel, John Abercrombie and Manu Kachu – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. She’s performed at a multitude of festivals and concert houses around the globe, including the Montreal, Paris, London, Verona, Perugia, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Dinant and North Sea Jazz Festivals and the JVC & Caramoor Jazz Festivals in New York.
Silvano’s latest recordings are both surprising and diverse in her growing body of work. “Sound Garden – Spirit Music” (JSL Records) is the first in a series of CDs of music for healing meditation that Judi improvised (Silvano on flute, alto flute, alto recorder & percussion) along with sax great Joe Lovano (on gongs, shakuhachi wood flute, bass clarinet and percussion). The second, “Sound Garden ? Celestial Voices” (JSL Records) is a lush yet earthy soundscape of women’s voices that show Silvano’s roots as a choral singer. Chronogram Magazine said “This disc transcends the conventional relaxation recording and is a truly glorious disc!”
Her jazz offering “Let Yourself Go” (ZOHO Music, 2004) was a loving 80th birthday gift to her mother of her favorite standards arranged by Michael Abene for an all-star Sextet including Ingrid Jensen, Dick Oatts and Rufus Reid and won a place on several Top 10 lists that year.
2006 and 2007 found Judi doing several Big Band Projects: touring with Tim Hagans and Sweden’s Norbotten Big Band, recording with the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra’s arrangements of some of her original songs and a concert in Israel at the International Women’s Festival with the Holon Big Band in Tel Aviv and Master Class in Jerusalem.
The above-mentioned “Women’s Work” was released June, 2007 featuring songs by American Women such as Mary Lou Williams, Abbey Lincoln, Blossom Dearie, Sheila Jordan, Carla Bley, Bessie Smith, Meredith D’Ambrosio and band members Janice Friedman and Silvano herself. This homage to the under-recorded works by great American women composers, includes a swinging band made up of Janice Friedman on piano, Jennifer Vincent on bass and Allison Miller on drums. “Silvano and company are in fine form, obviously having a ball with this material going from softly introspective to joyfully buoyant and delightfully saucy.” (Chris Loudon, Jazz Times). So look for Judi Silvano’s live appearances with a variety of wonderful musicians where she always shares her love of music! A continuation of this project is already in the works with songs by such illustrious composers as Melba Liston, Bertha Hope, Sarah Cassey, Jane Herbert Hall, Peggy Lee, Renee Rosnes and others.
Silvano’s immense musicality blooms on her recent “Cleome: Live Takes” recording, released in 2008 (JSL). Keenly dedicated to her adventuring approach to songcraft, Silvano teams up with a stellar group of collaborators on the album: saxophonist George Garzone, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Gerry Hemingway (with John Lindberg taking over the bass chair on two tracks). Together they create a vibrant garden of performances and each of the nine songs on “Cleome” stands as an evocative glimpse into the soul of Silvano’s creative personality and love of collaboration. Down Beat Magazine gave it 4 stars and said “Vocalist Judi Silvano has guts and takes big risks? singing with rhythmic snap. These are a series of audio snapshots, exciting in their spontaneity.” As a whole this release reminds us of the voice’s unwavering primacy as a tuneful instrument and of Silvano’s genuine gifts in this regard.
Her latest recording “Indigo Moods”, released on Jazzed Media Records in April 2012, shows Silvano able to synthesize her years of singing favored jazz repertoire with her playful sense of improvising ! The result is a relaxed and easy-going Trio session with her trusted collaborators on this project, Peter Tomlinson on piano and Fred Jacobs on trumpet. Together they create fresh interpretations of her choice of well-known and timeless songs! The repertoire runs from Duke Ellington, to Antonio Carlos Jobim along with the Gershwin brothers, Hoagy Carmichael, Irving Berlin and more. Songs will be available for download or you can purchase an old-fashioned CD at either www.jazzedmedia.com or www.amazon.com.
You may have to stop and take a deep breath just from reading what Judi Silvano has accomplished to date – but she won’t! Judi’s ideas, spark, talent and enthusiasm know no limits. Alongside her study of the wealth of material in the jazz library and the composers who provide such rich diversity for our listening pleasure and enrichment, Silvano has continued to create her own Original songs from her personal viewpoint. While playing many of these originals in live concert settings recently with noted Pianist / Arranger Michael Abene, there was so much enthusiasm around the project that they decided to go into the studio to document their partnership. There is an upcoming release in the works for next year. Please visit Judi’s website Itinerary to see when she will be bringing her joyful and spirited music to a location near you!
Judi Silvano is off and running again, bringing her abundant talents and tireless spirit to the next endeavor. So, stay in touch for more on this continuing story of Love and Music!
Judi Silvano ?Indigo Moods?;
CD Release Celebration
Fred Jacobs, trumpet
Janice Friedman, piano
Ratzo B. Harris, bass
Tim Horner, drums