From the moment she first burst on to the stage with an up tempo medley of “Lady Luck” and “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time,” Stravelli...engaged and enthralled the audience with her clear, self-assured voice and warm, infectious smile. Above all, Stravelli is a singer who honors the lyrics. Willie Nelson once described country music as “Three chords and the truth.” Stravelli gets that and she brilliantly conveys the emotional truth—whether joy, or in the case of so many country tunes, heartbreak—behind each song...Two additional highlights were a pair of Nelson’s best known, most popular songs, the beloved Hoagy Carmichael standard “Stardust” and the honky tonky favorite “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys.”...Gabrielle Stravelli, a brilliantly talented artist in her own right, succeeds in creating completely new works of art while honoring Nelson’s achievements.
‘Pick Up My Pieces: Gabrielle Stravelli Sings Willie Nelson’ picks up on the finer qualities of the chart-topping country singer-songwriter/guitarist. Stravelli, who’s done this kind of thing before (John Fogerty, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder), gives much more of herself than expected...Stravelli brought her actor’s training to Willie Nelson’s music, lifting much of the darkness, telling her own stories, and exploring every inch of the vocal scale — from the top to the bottom. Not a lot of singers, even the great ones, can accomplish that.
With a crack crew and some solidly inventive arrangements by bassist and musical director Pat O’Leary behind her, Stravelli sings her way into the heart via Nelson’s art...she works with swing, country sass, and swagger in equal proportions. With “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” Stravelli blows the roof off the place with her bebop scat chops. In “Karma Medley” she finds and defines the ties that bind “Little Old Fashioned Karma,” “Blame It On The Times,” and “Nobody Slides, My Friend” with swinging and swampy abandon...Hearing Stravelli sing these songs provides a real picture of the full Nelson as well as confirmation of her own fine craftsmanship.
Stravelli displays a chameleon-like vocal range as she turns some of Nelson’s songs into swingers and bop romps. A high point of her album is a tour de force medley of three Nelson songs, “Karma Medley: Little Old Fashioned Karma/Blame It On the Times/Nobody Slides, My Friend”. It ranges from straight out swing to New Orleans second line to country, with interludes of inspired scat singing. The album is also remarkable for the range of Willie Nelson material it should expose to jazz listeners.
It is no far reach for vocalist Stravelli to add a bit of New York and Broadway to Nelson’s oeuvre. Bassist Pat O’Leary doubles the arrangement duties for this jazz nonet supplemented with a string quartet. That adds up to one lush and powerful sound...The most stunning transformations of material are evidenced in the hard swinging, bop-infused “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” and the slow ballad treatment of “Good Hearted Woman....Gabrielle Stravelli earns kudos for having the guts to imagine and then produce this recording. Good show!
Stravelli shakes him (Nelson) up and shakes him loose making something far more interesting than Willie’s own reggae inventions. Fun stuff that certainly lets you hear him in a whole new way.
Much like her subject, Willie Nelson, Gabrielle Stravelli has stuck to her artistic vision, and gone forward where others might have compromised or thrown in the towel. Her program of songs written by and/or associated with Willie Nelson found her reconceiving the Nelson material in a jazz context with intelligence, imagination, musicality and a voice that equaled all of the challenges that the material presented.
Although the new Birdland Theater is not known for magic acts, something magical happened when Gabrielle Stravelli previewed her soon-to-be-released album Pick Up My Pieces: Gabrielle Stravelli Sings Willie Nelson.Making a very strong case for the Nelson cannon to be wholly adopted into the Great American Songbook, Stravelli and her band...reinvented some of Willie Nelson’s most famous tunes...
This is the work of an artist with an eloquent and richly varied musical palette and the skill to apply the colors in the most pleasing combinations. It is downright irresistible.