Praise for Stairway to the Stars

It is important that when a singer and pianist hook up to make a recording that they are simpatico from the start. The singer has to trust the pianist to give her support that does not interfere with her ability to sell the song, while the person at the keyboard has to feel that his partner is musically hip and able to bring the songs to life. It is evident on Stairway to the Stars (Self-Produced) that vocalist GABRIELLE STRAVELLI and pianist MICHAEL KANAN fit together perfectly. Stravelli has a flexible voice, and an ability to make every word of each song believable. Kaman is sensitive and consistently creative in providing the kind of support that makes singers relax and know that they are in good hands. They worked together on the program, and made one fine selection after another. Even with the familiar songs that comprise most of the tracks, they find ways to make the tunes sound like new ones. When did you last hear “So Rare” sung with the verse? Well they do it here, and that is indeed so rare. To hear instantly how magical this duo is, just listen to how they combine the challenging “Autumn Nocturne” with a song associated with the legendary vocalist Jeri Southern, “I Don’t Know Where to Turn.” The program was recorded before an audience at The Drawing Room in Brooklyn. The audience was rapt, as you will be upon hearing Stravelli and Kanan weave their spell for the better part of an hour.
— Joe Lang, Jersey Jazz, September 2016
The Stravelli-Kanan collaboration is absolutely impeccable. Stravelli pays lovely attention to the Hoagy Carmichael-Ned Washington romantic prayer, ‘The Nearness of You,’ her different versions of the repeated “oh, no” lyric are irresistible. The musicality she lends to the ‘Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me’ title phrase is ravishing. Kanan begins the album’s title song with something that sounds like a classical prelude retooling. With tracks like that and every one of the others, any lucky auditor can only be grateful.
— David Finkle, Huffington Post
Gabrielle Stravelli and Michael Kanan create rare beauty. Whenever I’ve heard them, singly or in duet, I’ve marveled. I feel as alive as I will ever be, with tears in my eyes and an astonished uncontrollable smile.
Their art is heartfelt and subtle. It takes devotion to be so at one with the music, to create drama without being dramatic. They serve the song, words and music. They make the most familiar song seem fresh, but never distort it in the name of innovation.
These performances were recorded in The Drawing Room, that gratifying yet unassuming Brooklyn shrine to music, on February 8, 2105. It was an honor to experience such music, to witness it being created.
The rapport between Michael and Gabrielle is intuitive. It is trust set to music. They travel the same path as dear friends, serious about their work but light- hearted in play. The results are quiet rather than showy yet always convincing, an love-offering of improvised nuances, not rehearsed gestures. Even when the material they choose is dark, tenderness shines through. They are at once serene and agile, poets who never insist on Being Poetic.
I don’t know what their religious beliefs are, and it would be impudent to inquire. But these performances seem fully realized secular hymns to music, to feeling. Gabrielle and Michael offer us hopeful visions of exalted possibilities.
My praise might make them seem too deeply serious, as if listening to their music was weighty spiritual homework. Not so. Doom is never one of the specials on their menu, and you can hear them smiling when the song calls for it. Their work is characterized by ease and wise patience. They don’t rush. They allow each moment to emerge as it will, to blossom and turn sunward. They delight in a rubato forward motion that never loses the pulse.
Gabrielle’s voice has many rooms, each one painted a different color. It can move from a hushed half-whisper to the insistent meow of a Siamese cat or the wry curl of a New York Italian adolescent, amused by what she’s just seen on the street, to an expressive, rangy open voice, dark and warm in its lower register, bright and soaring above. She has beautiful diction and she never obliterates the lyric; rather, her phrasing makes meaning deeper. Only she can make me accept the “idea” / “Maria” rhyme in SO RARE, which fact I offer as great tribute.
Michael’s touch is sensitive; his harmonies remarkable. He surprises but never shocks. He honors Jimmie Rowles by not imitating him. His phrases breathe in inspiring ways. His playing is spare yet rich, with a singing expressiveness. He knows that the piano has an entire orchestra within it, but his creations always sound translucent rather than insistent. His is an art where every detail matters and resonates long after the struck note has died away. As an accompanist he gives wondrously, wanting only that others sound even better than they thought they could.
With stories full of sweet truths, Gabrielle and Michael invite us to open the secret door in the attic, revealing the stairway to the stars. Through their music, we climb to a rare joy.
— Michael Steinman, Jazz Lives blog
Gabrielle Stravelli and her remarkable pianist Michael Kanan are outstanding here singing eleven standards. This performance was taped at a concert at “The Drawing Room” in Brooklyn. The couple have much to offer throughout their varied program of famous art songs. “As Long As I Live” (Arlen/Koehler) kicks things off on a very upbeat level. The pair swing this oldie to the max. “The Nearness Of You” (Carmichael/ Washington), on the other hand, receives a most tender offering. They sound as one. The outcome is greeted with respectful deserving applause. Throughout their performance the audience does seem in a trance. It is a certainty that this perfect pairing of music and performers will receive a long lasting deserved appreciation for many years to come. Just think of this as undated musical history and leave it at that.
— Dan Singer, In Tune International Magazine
The non-pareil jazz vocals of Gabrielle Stravelli are something to behold. Rarely are contemporary singers as poised and pleasantly voiced as the award winning singer whose bright smile can actually be “heard” in every romantic song. Pianist Michael Kanan is also an impressive and experienced jazz musician who has the capacity to bring a full sound to his arrangements while at the same time providing nuance and subtlety. As a result, it allows the purity of Stravelli’s voice to shine. Recently, the pair debuted their duet album, “Stairway to the Stars” at the cozy Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich village, The album, intended to be “stripped down elegance” of piano and voice, offers an array of American standards including, “The Nearness of You”, “I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket”, and “I Concentrate On You.” It also includes some lesser known, but beautiful classics: “I Don’t Know Where to Turn/Autumn Nocturne” and “So Rare”...
— Ryan Leeds, Manhattan Digest
A vocal by Gabrielle Stravelli has the kind of pristine clarity that makes one rethink the definition of the word. The jaunty “As Long As I Live” (Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler) showcases Stravelli’s natural ability to slip/slide notes or segue into a wah-wah horn sound. A 1930’s song, it also sets the tenor of this CD. Piano seems illusively easy, taking a backseat except during an instrumental break that doodles around the melody. Duke Ellington/Bob Russell’s “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear from Me” utilizes that wah-wah styling. Stravelli plays with it, sashaying between provocative pauses. It’s a tease, a dare. Piano winks, wiggles, and swings a bit. “The Nearness of You” (Hoagy Carmichael/Ned Washington) arrives with strolling vocal and soft shoe accompaniment. Single-syllable words emerge as three. The interpretation is not as serious as usual, conjuring an insouciant hands-in-pockets attitude, ending with raised eyebrows and a shrug. Ellington/Russell’s “I Didn’t Know About You” begins confidently with a honeyed a cappella. You can barely hear Stravelli’s vibrato, it’s so far back in her throat, holding a lingering note. Reflective piano acts like lighting...
— Alix Cohen, Cabaret Scenes

Gabrielle discusses Stairway to the Stars with Trish Hennesy of Hybrid Jazz Radio. Listen to the full interview HERE

Gabrielle discusses Stairway to the Stars with Bob Parzych of WRTC 89.3 Radio. Listen to the full interview HERE

Gabrielle discusses Stairway to the Stars with Michael Jacobi of "Raising the Standards" on KSCO 1080AM Radio in Santa Cruz, CA. Listen to the full interview (September 10th, 2016) HERE