Award-winning vocalist, songwriter and United States Department of State “Jazz Ambassador” Gabrielle Stravelli has garnered critical acclaim from the likes of The New York Times and Downbeat Magazine, and a loyal following of fans thanks to a highly personal musical sensibility. Called “a powerhouse of individual expression” by The Village Voice, the singer uses the vocal traditions of straight ahead jazz to frame her own pop-influenced compositions and to breathe new life into material from the Great American Songbook as well as by contemporary artists as varied as Willie Nelson, Joni Mitchell, Bob Marley and John Fogerty.
Despite being the only musician in her entire family, Stravelli is grateful to have been encouraged by her parents to sing and play piano and French horn as a child. She explains; “I was fortunate to be raised by parents who are real music lovers. They played everything for my siblings and me: opera, Broadway cast recordings, swing and big band, jazz (lots of Ella and Frank!), R&B and Gospel”. The adventurous tastes of her parents rubbed off on Stravelli; “Without even meaning to, they illustrated to me that good music is good music, no matter what genre, and that different styles of music can absolutely co-exist happily”.
This desire to throw out the rule book lead Stravelli to her 4th album, released in April 2019, a jazz and R&B-flecked exploration of the music of Willie Nelson. Early in the process of creating “Pick Up My Pieces: Gabrielle Stravelli Sings Willie Nelson” some seemed skeptical that a jazz artist would want to interpret country music, but Stravelli stuck to her vision. “Willie is someone of particular interest to me because he has gone beyond genre. He’s made country music, outlaw country music, and also released numerous albums covering Spirituals and American Songbook material. He’s not a country musician or a jazz musician, but just a great musician with his own unmistakable voice.”
The record is a far reaching exploration of Nelson’s catalog, from his earliest works to his most recent creative efforts. She celebrated the album’s release with a sold out concert at New York’s venerable Birdland Jazz Club and the album has received unanimous accolades from outlets including All About Jazz, The Midwest Record, Jersey Jazz and a featured write-up in The Wall Street Journal in which music critic Will Friedwald praised Stravelli for making an album that both Charlie Parker and Willie Nelson could love and for “transforming” the music; “Not that Ms. Stravelli takes Mr. Nelson’s music and merely “jazzes” it up in the most obvious way. She’s giving these songs...thoughtful interpretations”.
Stravelli’s third album, “Dream Ago” was released in January 2018 and allowed her to make another creative leap- this time, releasing her original material co-written with bassist Pat O'Leary and lyricist Jason Robinson. “Jazz has a deep tradition of interpreting existing material” Stravelli says, “but in order for jazz to continue to grow, I think it’s important to contribute your own material- and I think it’s especially important for women to add their voices to this repertoire.”
The album received a rare five-star review from DownBeat Magazine and garnered raves from the Huff Post, Scott Yanow of LA Jazz Scene and Tony Frankel of LA's Stage and Cinema among others. “Dream Dancing”, the album’s opening track, was added to the Spotify editorial playlist “Women of Jazz” and has been streamed over 24K times. Stravelli and her trio shared the album with a headlining performance at the 2018 WBGO Jazz on the Mountain Festival in New Paltz, NY and in performances at major venues in New Jersey, Lancaster, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Detroit, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Three Oaks, MI, Akron, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and the greater Washington DC-area, in addition to touring in Italy and Norway.
Stravelli’s international reach has grown exponentially since her acceptance in 2015 into the US State Department’s “American Music Abroad” (AMA) program. With the AMA program she has toured Southeast Asia, lead her group on a ten-day tour of Pakistan, performed throughout Azerbaijan to celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations with the US, and performed a month long tour crisscrossing Malta, Slovenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova. In January 2019, Stravelli lead her quintet on a tour of Chile, headlining the Providencia Jazz Festival in Santiago, the Las Condes Jazz Festival, the 10th Annual Semana Internacional de Jazz en la Patagonia along with performances at Santiago’s premier jazz clubs including The Jazz Corner and El Meson Nerudiano. She has appeared at the 2019 Kota Kinabalu Music and Dance Festival in Malaysia, the 2016 Eleuthera All That Jazz Festival in Eleuthera, Bahamas, the 2013 Maree Sonore Festival in Venice, IT and the 2013 Kastav Cultural in Croatia.
Stravelli was invited to audition for the State Department program after she received a career-defining rave review in The New York Times for a sold out 5-night run of shows at New York’s Metropolitan Room in 2014. The Times’ Stephen Holden wrote:
“Listening to the jazz singer Gabrielle Stravelli is like imbibing a potent cocktail whose flavor changes as you drain the glass. In the first couple of sips, the predominant taste is the sparkling wine that has drifted to the top, for Ms. Stravelli’s bright, rippling voice exudes a natural effervescence. Before long, it darkens, and the heady liquor underneath kicks in...As she dipped and swooped, twirling notes and phrases with a confidence and playfulness that recalled Ella Fitzgerald in her prime, Ms. Stravelli began interpreting lyrics with a ferocity that her vocal pyrotechnics accentuated...”
In 2014 Stravelli also toured the United States with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra premiering Marsalis' complete version of his masterwork Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration. She joined the project again in 2016 for a reprise performance of the piece at the renowned Chautauqua Institute's Summer Festival. In the fall of 2015 Stravelli was handpicked by world-renowned jazz pianist Fred Hersch to premiere his song cycle, Rooms of Light, with lyrics by award-winning poet Mary Jo Salter. That project was proceeded by a run of solo shows at Feinstein's/54 Below which won her her second rave review from the New York Times.
"Ms. Stravelli’s emotional intelligence coincides with a phenomenal voice that she wielded with an easygoing confidence and impeccable taste." - Stephen Holden, New York Times
Stravelli’s concert work began at age 15, as a soloist with the Orchestra of St Peter by the Sea in Point Pleasant, NJ. She has since appeared with the Jackson Symphony in Tennessee, the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra in North Carolina, the Santa Rosa Symphony, the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, the New Jersey Festival Orchestra, the Cincinnati Pops, and the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra. Since that first professional appearance at age 15 she has performed on stages from Amsterdam to New York including the Caramoor Festival, Lincoln Center's Midsummer Night's Swing, Birdland Jazz Club, Smalls Jazz Club, Mezzrow, the Jazz Standard, Kitano Jazz, 55 Bar, Bemelman's Bar at the Carlyle Hotel, Trumpets Jazz Club, Bethesda Blues & Jazz, Maureen's Jazz Cellar, 92Y's Lyrics and Lyricists Series, Cornelia Street Cafe, Feinstein’s/54 Below, Merkin Hall at Kaufman Center, the Iridium Jazz Club, The Garage, Grasso's, Fulton Theatre, the Watchung PAC, the Axelrod PAC and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) where she opened for Esperanza Spalding and Cassandra Wilson. For three and a half years she headlined a Jazz Brunch every Sunday at Le Pescadeux in Soho, NYC.
She is a master teacher for YoungArts (a national organization that connects artists 14-18 years old with professionals currently working in their chosen field). She has taught extensively for the Kaufman Center's Lucy Moses Special Music School and the United States Department of State as a Jazz Ambassador.
Gabrielle received the 2019 Broadway World Cabaret Award for Best Jazz Vocalist, the 2015 MAC Award for Best Female Vocalist and the 2015 Bistro Award as a Jazz Vocalist. She was one of only ten finalists selected internationally for the 2011 SHURE- Montreux Jazz Festival Vocal Competition and was the 1st runner-up at the 2009 Jazzmobile Vocal Competition in Harlem. In 2008 she was awarded the Backstage/Bistro Award for Performer on the Rise (given by critics from Variety, The Village Voice and Backstage) and that same year was named to a list of the top ten cabaret acts by John Hoglund of theaterscene.net;
“One of today's most promising vocalists...Whether crooning sultry standards like “Skylark or “My Foolish Heart” or playing with Pink Floyd, she embraces each line with perfect, supple phrasing and effective breath control that rivals all that the competition longs for. With luck, she will be picked up by a jazz label and given the world stage her talents deserve.”
Gabrielle holds a BFA from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and has studied jazz voice and piano with Nancy Marano, Marion Cowings, David Berkman and Joshua Richman.