Gabrielle Stravelli & Michael Kanan Celebrate their Duet Album “Stairway to the Stars” @ Cornelia St Café, July 11

Article: NiteLife Exchange ~

Acclaimed vocalist GABRIELLE STRAVELLI and jazz pianist MICHAEL KANAN will celebrate their powerfully intimate new duet recording Stairway to the Stars with a concert at The Cornelia Street Café (29 Cornelia Street in New York) on Monday, July 11 at 8:30 PM. The album is currently available via iTunes and other digital formats; physical copies will be available on Friday, June 24. Stairway to the Stars is produced by Gabrielle Stravelli and Pat O’Leary.

This recording, with its stripped-down elegance, features rhythmically unique takes on classic standards by Hoagy Carmichael (“The Nearness of You”), Cole Porter (“I Concentrate On You”) and Duke Ellington (“Do Nothing Til You Hear From Me”), lesser-recorded songs from major composers like George Gershwin (“I Was Doing All Right”), Irving Berlin (“I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket”) and Harold Arlen (“As Long as I Live”), in addition to treasures from the Great American Songbook such as “So Rare,” “I Don’t Know Where to Turn” and the album’s ravishing title track.

“Gabrielle Stravelli and Michael Kanan create rare beauty,” said noted jazz scribe Michael Steinman in the album’s liner notes. “They make the most familiar song seem fresh, but never distort it in the name of innovation. They don’t rush. They allow each moment to emerge as it will, to blossom and turn sunward.”

“The creators of our title tune ‘Stairway to the Stars’ wrote a perfect song,” says Gabrielle. “I love the way the melody climbs upward and then blooms. The lyrics on the bridge are just exquisite. It’s already so beautiful, we don’t embellish too much or mess with it – we play it simply, just giving it up to the beauty of the lyrics and melody. I think that represents our musical philosophy for the whole album: playing simply but very sincerely, with a lot of reverence for the work of the composers and lyricists.”

“‘So Rare’ was my parents’ first dance at their wedding,” she continues. “My mom asked me to learn it years ago, but when I first listened to it I thought the lyrics were corny. In 2015 I listened again and fell in love with it. I was able to look at the lyrics in the context of their time. They’re sweet, utterly sincere and suddenly they no longer seemed corny – they’re vintage!”

“‘I Don’t Know Where to Turn’ and ‘Autumn Nocturne’ are both songs that Michael Kanan suggested,” she reflects. “‘Autumn Nocturne’ is quite a challenging melody, rangy and complex, as it was originally written as a piano piece. I liked the challenge of navigating it and I loved its haunting quality. He later introduced me to Jeri Southern, who wrote ‘I Don’t Know Where to Turn.’ I love that it’s so dark and she makes no apologies for her despair.”

“Working with Michael liberated me from feeling like I couldn’t sing certain tunes that were overdone,” she says about “The Nearness of You.” “He believes that if you love a song and can sing it truthfully, then you’ll bring something new to it. I’m so grateful for his open-minded approach to material. Without him I wouldn’t have had the courage to include this song.”

“Michael is known as something of a ‘vocalist whisperer,’” says Gabrielle. “He’s an instrumentalist who enjoys working with singers, who takes the lyrics into account in his own playing. We both place a great importance on the original melody and intent of the composer. Michael’s playing taught me the beauty of playing simply. I don’t mean his playing is simplistic, it’s incredibly deep harmonically and rhythmically and yet he’s a master when it comes to trimming the fat, playing in way that exposes and enhances the beauty of a song without trying to gild the lily. When I sing with him I can focus on the lyric, the groove and the wonderful conversation of two people playing together.”

“I heard about Gabrielle well before I met her or heard her sing,” remembers Kanan. “Our mutual friend was raving about her sound, and how she projected her sheer joy of making music. When I heard her for myself, it was obvious that she was a rare talent. Her rhythm, her exuberance, and her lyrical clarity were overwhelming. Over the next few years I accompanied her as often as I could and I got to observe as she grew into a fully-matured artist in what seemed like the blink of an eye.”

Reflecting on creating the album, Kanan says “I suggested to Gabrielle that we plan as little as possible. I wanted the listener to hear her interpreting classic melodies in the moment, with bare bones accompaniment and no arrangements. This way, we get to experience her artistry in a most intimate way. She is emotionally open, and invites the listener into her musical world. Whether telling a simple romantic story, or swinging like mad, Gabrielle gives us her whole heart. Playing with her, especially in this context, is both very easy and very challenging. Her absolute command of her musical tools makes accompanying her a breeze. I follow her line easily, and because she is so strong I’m free to ‘comment’ in any way that I like. The challenge comes in matching her level of expression and vulnerability. This recording was a liberating and joyful experience.”

“Making this record was an easy process,” Stravelli agrees. “We had one session together in his studio where we played through a bunch of tunes, deciding on keys, tempos and form. We didn’t belabor things; we wanted to leave room for spontaneity. All the songs were recorded on one evening, each in one take. The album is a great reflection of our relationship; we joke around a lot, we make mistakes and chalk them up to experience and often, we create music that we love and feel proud to share with the world.”

 GABRIELLE STRAVELLI and MICHAEL KANAN will celebrate their new album Stairway to the Starsat The Cornelia Street Café (29 Cornelia Street in New York) on Monday, July 11 at 8:30 PM. There is a $10 cover with an additional $10 food and beverage minimum. Tickets are available online or via phone at (212) 989-9319.


 GABRIELLE STRAVELLI is a celebrated pop/jazz vocalist and songwriter heralded by The New York Times for her “emotional intelligence [which] coincides with a phenomenal voice that she wields with an easygoing confidence and impeccable taste.” In addition to her four-country U.S. State Department tour, last year Gabrielle premiered a new song cycle, Rooms of Light, by world-renowned jazz pianist Fred Hersch with lyrics by poet Mary Jo Salter. Waiting in Vain, Gabrielle’s debut CD, was named “Album of the Week” by Jonathan Schwartz from WNYC/New York Public Radio. In December, she appeared on Schwartz‘s Christmas Show for the second year opposite John Pizzarelli, Karrin Allyson and Bill Charlap. She toured the US with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performing Marsalis’s Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration. At age 15, Gabrielle began singing as a soloist with orchestras and has since performed on stages from Amsterdam to New York including the Caramoor Festival, Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night’s Swing, Birdland, Kitano Jazz, Cornelia Street Cafe, Carnegie Hall, Kaufman Center, Hammerstein Ballroom, Iridium Jazz Club, BB King, Maree Sonore Festival in Venice, Italy and the NJ Performing Arts Center opening for Esperanza Spalding and Cassandra Wilson. She has appeared as a soloist with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, the New Jersey Festival Orchestra and the Cincinnati Pops, sang the role of Anita in West Side Story with the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra and performed in the European tour of Hair. Her podcast “Big Modern Music” features interviews with stars of jazz, pop and beyond. Gabrielle’s upcoming album focusing on her distinctive original songs will be produced by David Cook (Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Marianne Faithful).

MICHAEL KANAN has established himself as a world-class jazz pianist and first-call vocal accompanist for stars such as Jane Monheit, Annie Ross and Madeleine Peyroux. He has played and recording with Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mark Turner, and Jorge Rossy, among many others. In 1996, Michael joined the band of legendary singer Jimmy Scott, touring the US, Europe, and Japan and recording four CDs. In 2001, he became the accompanist and arranger for the celebrated vocalist Jane Monheit. With her  group, he has toured the world, recorded several CDs and DVDs, and made many TV appearances including “Late Show with David Letterman” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” He is a founding member of the International Hashva Orchestra. Michael can be heard around New York with his trio featuring guitarist Greg Ruggiero and bassist Neal Miner. Originally from Boston, he currently lives in Brooklyn.



 1) As Long As I Live (Harold Arlen / Ted Kohler)

2) The Nearness of You (Hoagy Carmichael / Ned Washington)

3) I Didn’t Know About You (Duke Ellington / Bob Russell)

4) So Rare (Jerry Herst / Jack Sharpe)

5) I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket (Irving Berlin)

6) I Concentrate on You (Cole Porter)

7) I Don’t Know Where To Turn / Autumn Nocturne (Jeri Southern – Josef Myrow / Kim Gannon)

8) Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me (Duke Ellington / Bob Russell)

9) I Was Doing All Right (George Gershwin / Ira Gershwin)

10) Stairway to the Stars (Matty Malneck / Frank Signorelli / Mitchell Parish)