Audrey Silver’s magnificently arranged, thoughtfully and beautifully crafted homage to Rodgers & Hammerstein’s iconic musical Oklahoma marks more than the popular NYC club singer’s 20th year as an independent recording artist. The ten-song collection, simply titled Oklahoma, is a deeply inspiring labor of love that fulfills a passion for the material that she’s carried with her since age 11, when she loved the 1955 film so much that she asked her parents if they would play it for her friends at her birthday party. Silver’s enduring love for all things Broadway served her well later as she blossomed as a jazz performer steeped in the Great American Songbook.
Weaving her richly emotive vocal magic and storytelling skills through the stellar arrangements of Bruce Barth, Silver creates a deeply intimate experience with a generally subtle, jazz chamber feeling, occasionally complementing the core piano (Barth) and guitar (Peter Bernstein) with alto flute and bass clarinet (Adam Kolker), percussion (Kahlil Kwame Bell) and a four-piece string section. The cover photo of Silver in an open field backed by sunshine and holding a large Native American flute is highly significant because of the unexpected way she approaches the usually familiar title song.
The lengthy instrumental intro featuring a rushing wind and her exquisite flute improvisations reflects the Native Americans that were prominent in the original play the musical was based on (Lynn Riggs’ “Green Grow the Lilacs”) but were excised from Hammerstein’s libretto. Then Silver’s elegant vocals sweep in (like wind across the plains), combining with the string section to build dramatic tension for the songs to come.
Each piece has its own personality, from the lightly swinging “Many a New Day” and exuberant, expectant “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” to the sly, playful “I Cain’t Say No,” the spritely and whimsical “Surrey With The Fringe On Top” (a true jazz standard via Miles Davis and Blossom Dearie) and lush, string filled “Out of My Dreams.” Silver also brings her great wit and sassy charm to two of the show’s other set pieces, “People Will Say We’re in Love” and “Kansas City,” She closes with a sensual, jazzy reprise of the title song, effortlessly melding her passions for Broadway and jazz as if letting the listener know, this is the ultimate expression of herself as an artist.