Volume 75, Number 21 | October 12 - 18, 2005


Andrea Wolper
55 Bar
55 Christopher St.
Thursday, Oct. 13, 7 PM
(212-929-9883; 55bar.com)

Andrea Wolper finds her voice in the ‘The Small Hours’

By Rick Marx

There are many contradictions in the music chosen by jazz vocalist Andrea Wolper in her new CD, “The Small Hours.” She’ll have a “Small Day Tomorrow,” and she sings of “Not Sleeping in Your Arms.” But the Brooklyn resident, who will be appearing in the Village at the 55 Bar on Thursday, Oct. 13, says the choice of music is not based on any apparent anachronism.

“I have to feel a connection to both the music and the lyrics,” says Wolper. “I want to feel that there’s something I can express through that vehicle.” In the case of her CD, she expresses a number of moods—warm, inviting, wistful, sad—using a diverse number of vehicles, from Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love” to the jazz funk classic “Moanin’.”

“All those different kinds of music are embedded in me from the listening that I did from the time I was a child. I’m finding that the more I evolve, the more some of those older influences start to emerge. Even though I love jazz, there’s definitely that rock ‘n’ roll, R&B stuff in me too, that I just really love.”

Wolper’s music is beautifully accompanied by a band that provides what she describes as long-term communication and understanding. “Guitarist Ron Affif and bassist Ken Filiano have been the core of my band for several years,” she says. “The others are guests that either Todd [Barkan], the producer, or I came up with, because we thought they would add something special. Which I think they all did.”

The group playing with Wolper at 55 will include other longtime musical companions Michael Howell, (a “treasure,” she says,) a guitarist who’s played with Dizzy Gillespie and the Grateful Dead. Howe was the first guitarist Wolper worked with, and they were before being joined by bass player Filiano. While Village jazz stalwart Victor Lewis plays on the CD, the grouping at 55 is drummerless. “Sometimes I will add a drummer, which I love doing,” she says. “It just so happens that we can do a lot without a drummer. There’s such a strong rhythmic sense among us, that it works.”

A frequent performer at venues throughout the city and around the world, she has been playing regularly at 55, with dates every other month. “We’ve been getting really good crowds,” says Wolper. “There’s a great feeling. I like it because I can let the music go wherever it wants to go, and people are there to hear the music. It’s a really a great atmosphere.”

She’s also appeared in Jazz at the Cape in South Africa, the Donne in Musica Festival in Italy, and the Hot Clube of Portugal. She appeared by special invitation in “A Singers Celebration” at the Blue Note, and is a member of Art Lillard’s Heavenly Big Band. In 2003, Wolper organized and performed in a 13-member ensemble of women musicians for the JVC NY Jazz Festival.

Wolper is very much into the sense of a jazz community. She served on the board and as the president of International Women in Jazz, an organization that recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. She is also a member of the national advisory board of the Jazz Vocal Coalition. Through those organizations, the red-headed vocalist says she has met some “amazing people and friends, and found out a lot of great things.”

Wolper says that she struggles with finding perfection and true expression. Whether it’s a personal interaction or an encounter with art of any kind, “it’s not perfection that moves us,” says Wolper. “It’s individuality. If you think of a person you care about, it’s the imperfections that make them interesting. For me, it’s an ongoing process of finding my individual voice as a musician, and hoping that I have something to express that might speak to somebody.”

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