With Prisoner of Love, the Queens-born vocalist Marianne Solivan put together one of the very best records of 2012. She demonstrated her command of love’s many sensibilities on the debut and illustrated an earnest spirit seldom heard. Following up such a striking debut can seem like a tough slog, but Spark is just the ticket. Solivan’s sophomore release saw shelves in September of 2014 and it’s primed to start some fires.

Spark is a smoking session of well-rounded material. It features an alluring mix of original pieces and standards, providing Marianne Solivan abundant opportunity to spread her proverbial wings. And with Xavier Davis (piano), Matthew Parish (bass) and Gregory Hutchinson (drums), she has an organization in support that delivers more than a security blanket.

The trio dives in immediately, digging into Solivan’s original title track with splash and style. Parish’s bass lines dance with the vocalist, providing both a rhythmic sense and a slinky counterpoint. Hutchinson’s cymbals crash and burst like the fireworks Solivan sings of, flaring like fits of colour in the night sky.

Parrish’s bass is the dance partner again on the racy “Hum Drum Blues.” The Oscar Brown Jr. joint is a perfect fit for Marianne Solivan, who oozes in and out of the piece with just the right kick. Davis’ ivories are piano bar cool, with sleek notes and chords from the opaque corners where bad seeds sip cocktails. And Solivan takes the spotlight, crying out for what she needs.
Spark continues painting cinematic images with tracks like the full-bodied “I Wanna Be Around” and Marianne Solivan’s contemplative but never maudlin account of Franchesca Blumenthal’s “The Lies of Handsome Men.” On the latter, she pulses into how she wishes things would be and bemoans the incivility of the “corner of her mind” without seeking pity from the night’s better angels.

And then there’s the spectacular “Tender as a Rose,” which pushes Parrish back up front. The track finds the bassist joining with Solivan for a moaning, groaning, bluesy take on Phil Moore’s tune. Whether it’s the carbonated “Ooh, What’cha Doin’ To Me” or the sweltering “El Cantante” from Ruben Blades, Marianne Solivan’s approach is one that once again blows the T-O-P off the record player.

This is another top-flight release from one of jazz’s best pure vocalists and one of Manhattan’s most captivating musical forces. It’s lofty praise, sure, but this Spark sets fires.


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