(Big Modern Music)
By Tyran Grillo | Published April 2017
Just when the shore of song seems lost for all the fog, the voice of Gabrielle Stravelli cuts through like a lighthouse of emotional integrity. Dream Ago is the third outing from this award-winning singer/songwriter and largely consists of original material. It’s also a step up in her collaborative game for enlisting producer David Cook (Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Marianne Faithfull), multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson and lyricist Jason Robinson, alongside a versatile band that includes Cook himself on keyboards, pianist Art Hirahara and bassist Pat O’Leary.
Dream Ago spreads Stravelli’s talent into its full spectrum, looking into her past for variations of color. The whimsical “Cake Of My Childhood” takes listeners on a culinary journey through her formative years, while the melancholy title track, written for her late father, offers an honest assessment of grief. Other songs are formidably upbeat. For “Little Zochee,” Stravelli pens lyrics to a Thomas Chapin flute solo, while “Didn’t You Tell Me” puts a feminist twist on things and reveals one of many obvious inspirations (in this case, the Andrews Sisters). Stravelli indeed channels a rainbow of interests, from balladic Joni Mitchell (“More”) to 1980s Gloria Estefan (“Now I Know”) and k.d. lang (the masterful “If Only Love Was Blind”).
Despite these introspective sojourns, Stravelli is outgoing at heart. Her duet with guest vocalist Kenny Washington (“Bicycle Blues”) is a highlight, as is the album’s opening statement, Cole Porter’s “Dream Dancing,” which reclines in a blissful arrangement. Whether through the Rodgers and Hammerstein standard “It Might As Well Be Spring” (rendered with rare tactility) or “Where Is The Song?” (a song written by Bob Dorough for Diana Krall, who never recorded it), the band flows wherever she goes, and we are nothing if not lucky to come along for the ride. DB
Dream Ago: Dream Dancing; Cake Of My Childhood; Little Zochee; Where Is The Song?; If Only Love Was Blind; Didn’t You Tell Me; Bicycle Blues; It Might As Well Be Spring; Dream Ago; Prism; More; Now I Know.
Personnel: Gabrielle Stravelli, vocals; Art Hirahara, piano (except 9), celesta (5); David Cook, Fender Rhodes (3, 11), piano (9, 10), glass harmonica (5); Pat O’Leary, bass; Eric Halvorson, drums; Scott Robinson, soprsaxophones, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, trumpet; Saul Rubin, guitar (1); Kenny Washington, vocals (7).