Award-winning vocalist and songwriter, Gabrielle Stravelli, brought her jazz talents to Toms River.
Stravelli performed a set of jazz at the Grunin Center for the Arts on the campus of Ocean Community College in Toms River on Sept. 15.
Stravelli, who now lives in New York City with her husband, grew up in Monmouth County. It was there where she learned the art of music, but it wasn’t from her family.
“I don’t come from a family with a lot of musicians,” Stravelli said. “Actually, there are no musicians or vocalists in my family. Nobody plays any instruments, and nobody sings, and yet I came along. I always loved to sing, and I grew up playing the piano and the French horn, and I was lucky that my parents were real music lovers. They always encouraged me and were supportive of my love of music. I started out as a kid, just playing instruments and doing community theater. Then, I went on to study music at a conservatory, and started working professionally the summer I graduated.”
Of all the genres of music that Stravelli could have chosen to fall in love with, she chose jazz. A genre that seems to be dying in the younger generations, Stravelli was given her love for jazz from her father.
“I did hear a lot of jazz in my house growing up,” she said. “I was always grateful for my parents because they played a lot of different music for us, from opera, to musical theater, and big band and classical, everything you could think of. My dad is a huge Ella Fitzgerald fan, so it was like every car ride we took together we always had one of her songbook recordings playing, and I think that I sort of learned this music and learned to love it without realizing it. Then, I think that as I developed, through my professional career and through my studies, I really grew to love it, because I really do love the improvisational aspect of jazz. I love that it can different every time and I love the way that there’s a real conversation between everyone on the band stand when you play this music.”
Stravelli, a jazz singer with three albums, recently came out with ‘Dream Ago,’ in 2017. Compared to her father’s favorite, Ella Fitzgerald, by the New York Times, Stravelli performs original compositions as well as performing material from other professional musicians. Currently, she is in the process of recording her fourth album, which will be works of Willie Nelson.
“The process is different on whether or not you’re introverting someone else’s music or writing your own,” she said. “The guys that I am currently working and performing with, we have been together for nine years. So, there is a certain comfort level, and I find that we are just so like-minded. These are guys that I can bounce around some ideas, and then there’s so much that they bring to it as well. There’s a lot of stuff that isn’t written on the page, but I trust them so much and they know what I like to do, and they can interpret it and we can come at it in a spontaneous and creative way.”
Stravelli has performed her works all over the world. From headlining the ‘All That Jazz Festival,’ in the Bahamas to headlining the international tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s American Music Abroadprogram that took her to Moldova, Azerbaijan, Slovenia and Malta, Stravelli has shared her works with numerous cultures and people.
“It has been a really incredible thing on so many levels,” she said. “It is very fulfilling and affirming to be given opportunities at all these places and to reach people who are very far from New York City. It’s also a wonderful experience to get to travel and meet all of these wonderful people who are very different from yourself, from all different walks of life. To get to experience this incredible thing, where we can communicate through music, the universal language, to see people from vastly different backgrounds be able to connect with you, it’s great.”
Stravelli is now sharing her latest set in Toms River, and she couldn’t be happier with it.
“I have been really wanting to present this set for a while now,” she said. “I premiered it in New York about two years ago, and this is really the first time I am doing it outside of New York City, and I love the set and I love the material, and I’m really excited to share it with people.”
For more information on Gabrielle Stravelli and her upcoming performance schedule, check out her website at: www.gabriellestravelli.com.