Jazz vocalist Christiana Drapkin has been performing in the New York area and on the East Coast for more than a dozen years. She is noted for her lyrical and highly personal delivery of ballads and for her abandoned yet artful scat improvisations. Christiana's singing is deeply immersed in the rich traditions of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Carmen McRae, as well as in the vocalese fireworks of Anita O'Day, Annie Ross and Eddie Jefferson. With her focus on Jazz Standards, she highlights improvisation and harmonic development, carrying on and developing the tradition of Be-Bop and musicians like Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Thelonious Monk, Lennie Tristano and Dizzy Gillespie, to name a few.
"... reminiscent of the style of the great café singers of the 40s and 50s. Christiana's voice and style sets the tone for the entire musical enterprise with verve and clarity. She is a felicitous combination of Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald. Her voice is full, sweetly gentle, with an excellent range."
Paulina K. Dennis, music critic, The Brooklyn Paper
Christiana came to the US as a Fulbright exchange student from Germany twenty years ago, studying in New Orleans where she got her first immediate exposure to Jazz. Moving to New York provided her with her ideal artistic home, where she feels part of a vibrant local jazz scene. She studies jazz with pianist Charles Sibirsky and vocal coach Barbara Feller. She performs regularly with New York musicians, like guitarist John Merrill, bassist Murray Wall, drummer Bernice Brooks, and others. In the Washington, DC area she often partners with guitarist Mike Gellar. They have produced a mini-CD of Jazz Standards, which is available at their gigs, as a sneak preview of things to come.
Her new CD "Songs About You" (her debut-CD, "Songs About You" is also available) has just been released on Iana Records. It features several original compositions by pianist Charles Sibirsky, guitarist Andy Fite, and saxophonist Charley Krachy, rounded out by her fresh interpretations of Standards from the American Songbook. Charles Sibirsky is on piano, Murray Wall on bass, John Merrill on guitar, and Charley Krachy on saxophone.
The CD opens with the standard Time On My Hands (You In My Arms), where Christiana establishes an expansive feeling for the time, laying back and drawing out the phrases in the manner of a young Sarah Vaughan. "Take time out from your hectic pace, exhale, and allow yourself to revel in your love", suggests Christiana.
Guitarist John Merrill opens the Bossa Nova Open Your Heart, one of four original tunes on this CD that were written by Charles Sibirsky. John Merril's touch is light, playful, and swinging.
You Don't Know What Love Is gives a typical example of the way Charles and Christiana work together. Charles's complex chords and his shaping of the phrases are a far cry from mere accompaniment. Not many vocalists can hold their own over the shifting harmonies and rhythm patterns that Charles loves to lay down.
The humorous Cholesterol Blues, also written by Charles Sibirsky, starts out with a cabaret-style verse that bemoans the consequences our minor vices and indulgences. Rather than turning preachy, it turns into an ode to the perfect T-bone steak.
Christiana is happy to introduce one of the many beautiful songs by the prolific and masterful composer and guitarist, Andy Fite. Among the Living is a perfect little gem. Murray Wall's walking bass line sets up a medium groove, while the lyrics take the listener on "a stroll through this very beautiful cemetery on a hill".
Charles's composition Formation is a soaring bebop line over a fast-driving harmonic progression. It illustrates Charles's fiery and linear approach, inspired by Lennie Tristano and Sal Mosca, who are among the strongest influences on his own musical development.
The ballad, Jazzman's Serenade, was written by Charley Krachy, the saxophonist featured on this recording. His playing is soulful and lyrical, beautifully complemented by the lyrics written by his sister, Sharon Krachy-Guzi.
Procrastination Blues, based on Charlie Parker's "Now's the Time", is reinvented here with very funny lyrics by Dori Levine, that transcend the existential dread in some of life's more bogged-down phases.
Songs About You, which also gives the title to this CD, is arguably Charles Sibirsky's strongest new work introduced on this CD. The impressionistic melody hovers between keys, the rhythm seems to be floating with each phrase, and his musical phrasing and improvising have a deeply emotional appeal. Charles's son, Graeme, wrote the inspired lyrics. Christiana captures the tune's wistful mood with her genuine depth of feeling, without ever getting sentimental.
Christiana swings hard on Just Friends, launching into an abandoned scat line which takes her across her impressive vocal range. She juxtaposes long, drawn-out sound lines with short, percussive riffs, and she takes harmonic risks that take her way beyond the obvious choices. In her trading with Charles, they lean into multiple rhythm patterns and chromaticisms that makes the tune fresh and immediate. Christiana's close attention to the lyrics make the closing phrase especially ironic and poignant.
Monkery's the Blues, instrumentally known as "Blue Monk", with lyrics by Abbey Lincoln, is representative of Christiana's interpretations of Thelonious Monk compositions in her live performances. Apart from Monk's harmonic complexities and the beauty of his melodies, she has the vocalist's added pleasure of introducing a new element with masterful lyrics. Christiana dedicates this track to the memory of the great singer Carmen McRae, whose recordings are a continuous source of inspiration to her.
The group takes the standard Out Of Nowhere out of its harmonic comfort zone right from the start with Charles Sibirsky's astringent comping. It is a testimony to Charles's and Christiana's long collaboration, and shows the results of their mutual musical risk taking, their deep listening and close interplay.