(pronounced sah-VEE-nah) born and raised in Chicago, was a child performer and studied from an early age winning among other credits, a 5-year scholarship to the American Conservatory of Music. During her schooling she was restricted to working in Chicago and then schooling completed, she was able to accept bookings out of town and she began to travel extensively - she literally played all over the country - north, east, south and west, soaking up the culture of each area. Whenever possible (on a day off, or after her last show) she would go to another club or to an after hours spot to hear local musicians jamming - often jumping in on a number at the musicians request.
Travel broadened her horizons and the numerous types of clubs she played gave her a solid foundation as a performer. Almost fanatically, she immersed herself in music and her work, studying live bands and singers, listening to records, and absorbing all that she could. Ultimately she gained a reputation as a good solid performer and her bookings became more lucrative.
Which, ultimately, brought her to New York (where she studied dramatics with Lee Strasberg) and to the attention of .Love® RECORDS (notable for their many instrumental million-sellers) who had her record a couple of singles. She was exceptionally well received by the Radio Performers and her records sold well. The radio stations programmed her records often and "How Come You Do Me Like You Do" was among the 10 best on Art Ford' s Brussels Music Selections. She quickly won acceptance on the music scene.
But, Rock and Roll, in all its glory was upon us at that time and there was little room on the stations (less on the charts) for good music , so (with several releases to her credit) rather than chase a trend which would take her out of her element, she decided to cease recording as an artist temporarily (until middle of the road music returned) and to become an independent producer.
She did, and several of her productions (released through .Loveand other labels) hit high marks on the charts - building for her still another reputation, this time as a consultant to a number of independent labels for whom she handled artist and repertoire duties, coaching, session preparation, co-ordination and actual recording dates which resulted in her name being linked to several chart making hits. After some years had passed, she began to develop strong feelings that the trend in music was due for a change and consequently that night clubs, which had all but disappeared, would return. So she set about preparing herself for a return to performing in nightclubs with her own group and recording as an artist again. Then during a session she was doing for RAVE ®RECORDS (Primarily a jazz label, but leaning to the middle of the road sound) she mentioned her feelings about the change and the Rave people admitted that they had quietly been lining up some of the best talent around in preparation for the new direction the felt music was about to take. The decided to run one down for reference with Savina doing the vocal and immediately after hearing the playback shook hands with her on a deal calling for 3 albums and an unspecified number of singles for release. Rave had the contacts drawn, Savina signed and she was back, in her own element, as a featured recording artist on the Rave label and her first album was a clear indication she was also back in the groove!
Savina began her recording career on the Love label and it is especially appropriate that this, her last album is being released on Love. She chose these songs for their meaningful lyrics and
she sang them as only she could sing them.
Loved deeply and missed by all who knew her, Savina died too young on December 1, 1992.
About the Album...
If it's jazz you're after- that is, the listening and dancing kind- you'll go a long way before you hear anything as truly great as Savina and her Gentle Jazz . She calls it "Gentle Jazz" because it is composed, arranged, and performed for both listening and dancing audience, and, while using original ideas incorporating "new sounds" into the music, she doesn't lose the general structure of the melody, line or rhythm. Using this approach as a fundamental basis, she doesn't alienate the many who are just now discovering Jazz (or rediscovering it) or those who have yet come to completely accept the rapid change being made in popular music and Jazz these days.
The songs are favorites and Savina's treatments on both the vocals and the arrangements are unique. Some of these songs were written and played for the first time almost 60 years ago. In retrospect, it's amazing how they have weathered the test of time, and inevitable how they must continue to for they sound as comfortable today as they did in the 30's and 40's, the 50's, even in the 60's 70's and 80's, and now in the new millenium.
Many of the finest composers and lyricists such as: Gershwin, Mills, Bigard, Swift, James, Coots, Green, Whiting, Mercer, Artie Shaw, etc. are represented in her albums which include many Ellington compositions, selected by Savina because the are old favorites of hers and because. as she has said "I love the music of Duke Ellington and I respect him too, as a person - he is the greatest". She was in tune with his thinking too: she felt the same way about her singing as Ellington did about his playing and writing, "I don't believe in a lot of elaborate plans and preparations, just pour it out as it comes - if you create something according to your own tastes and there happens to be somebody else around the world who like it, whose taste is compatible to yours, then you're lucky" - but she continues, "You have to do what comes out of your own head without any thought of whether it falls in the wake of a trend or not." Hastily, she adds,"Of course, I want people to like what I do - but what I do has to be genuine, believable, and what I feel".
Ellington, always very happy with Savina's recordings of his songs, often invited her to an intimate party (members of the band and few friends) which marked his closing after a very successful engagement. Most of Duke's time at one party was spent with Savina - having pictures taken, toasting the success of her newest album, talking about future engagements of the band and the singer and as a climax, giving Savina a fond kiss on the cheek ("for the photographer").
At one time or another in her varied career, Savina has worked and recorded with some of the greatest names in contemporary music... people such as Jimmy Dorsey, Stan Kenton, Cozy Cole, All Caiola, Bert Farber, Dick Hyman, Bernie Previn, Urbie Green, Peanuts Hucko, Kenny Burrell, Gene Rayme, Al Williams, Sonny Land, Nat Pierce, Mundell Lowe, George Duvivier, Sy Mann, Bill Bauer, Kenny Clarke, Joe Wilder, Hank Jones, Jimmy Raney, Oscar Pettiford, Bobby Donaldson, Don Abney, Barry Gailbraith, Addison Farmer, Milt Hamilton, Bedford Hendricks, Ed Shaughnessy, Mal Waldron, Wilbur Ware and Osie Johnson to name some.
Listening to and tirelessly studying the performance of the many great musicians she had worked with over the years helped her develop the "hornlike" qualities of phrasing, scatting, and bending of notes and beat that your hear in her voice. While soaking up instrumental mannerisms, she also made it her habit to hear everything she could by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O'Day, Mildred Bailey, Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington and Peggy Lee. If you have an inborn respect for people who know their craft - then you must respect Savina as well as enjoy her - she has a solid musical background... her schooling (The American Conservatory of Music)... well rounded club experience, and expert use of voice and microphone are reflected in her knowing and tasteful delineation of songs.
However, the essence of Savina's unparalleled skill and the power of her impact on the mind of the listener is not primarily from technical expertise - far more than any Jazz singer today, her strength is in her capacity to personalize the songs she is singing so deeply that the very act of performing is an insight into her deepest recesses.
To project a mood these days, ones' art must override the distractions of this tumultuous world and it is a tribute to Savina's sure musicianship, feeling for lyrics and deft dramatic sense, that she brings all of the elements of a song into genuinely affecting focus.
While other singers tend to draw on the poetry of a song to set the mood, Savina largely creates her own. She takes familiar numbers and, by infusing them with all she herself has learned about life and love and the twists of fate, she gives them depth and warmth which (to quote Nat Hentoff in his description of Billie Holiday), "make the attempts of most other singers with this material sound like the work of little girls playing house."
There are but a handful of singers who can transmit warm vibrations, so it is rare indeed to find and artist like Savina, who creates a mood so valid that he listener can't avoid personal involvement in the song.
Love, warmth and sheer pleasure are all present in Savina's sound and reading of meaningful lyrics. It can be heard and felt in its lightness on the up-tempo numbers, in its tenderness on ballads and in its depth on love songs. You'll find all of these qualities and more in her albums. Savina is known for her ability as a delineator of song - a storyteller, if you will - and in her albums that ability is reiterated again and again, but you' ll find that she maintains a harmonic-awareness rarely found in singers - a quality usually attainable only by outstanding instrumentalists (I refrain from using the term musicians because Savina is a musician, a "vocal Musician" ) - her outstanding ability to sing Jazz, perhaps as no other singer ever has, is due in large part to the fact that she has the same basic tonal qualities vocally as those of a Tenor or Alto Saxophone and when creating her vocal arrangements, she hears herself in terms of the instrument rather than in terms of voice. You will hear this "horn-like" quality throughout the numbers she performs.
The foundation of any arrangement inevitably rests with the rhythm section, and for her albums, Savina's choice of the basic rhythm sections is not accidental - she is always in the elite company of the tastiest, most consistently swinging Jazzman ever assembled. (Used as 4 to 7 pieces on different numbers because Savina is most relaxed and natural with a good small group.) Thus, the way the arrangements are worked out with Savina, comes with solid experience and the open - mindedness of a "loose" session.
The relationship between Savina and the musicians who work with her is almost spiritual or magical - the interplay between them is unbelievable - they just borrow form each other musically, pick up on each other's vibrations, and lay down a solid groove on each number. Her records are not recorded in nightclub performances, but in their informality, they match the relaxed atmosphere that the best of those made in that manner engender.
Along with Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and especially Billie Holiday, her albums solidly established Savina as one of the most innovative and captivating Jazz singers of all time. She had a "hip", husky sound and as familiar as her songs became to her, she was able to continually re-animate them to make each new performance provide a further insight into the potential of the song - and of her. She never performed any song, no matter how familiar, quite the same way more than once - so each new performance was always in a fresh new perspective. She sang Jazz more warmly, more wisely and perhaps more wonderfully than anyone ever has.
Although she rarely made appearances, when she did, she drew the kinds of response from the audience that you knew was not mere hand service, and the enthusiastic endorsements of musicians who heard or played for Savina explain why she was always asked to "jump in" on a number when she dropped in at a club to hear some of her favorite musicians at work.
Savina was a great advertisement for live Jazz. When she started to groove on a number and her body started to move gently to the rhythm, the intense warmth of her delivery had a natural visual counterpart. It's true that you cannot see her in her albums but you can feel the impact of her personality and the emotional content of her singing as it is poured into her music.
You'll groove to the imaginative sound, the verve and versatility, the change of mood and the mastery of style, which makes Savina one of the unquestioned greats among the great Jazz artists.
Hers are albums that will have you going right back to track 1, as soon as you have finished listening to the album in its entirety with several side trips to repeat choice spots in each track.
There will never be anybody like Savina...
Press Notices for SAVINA...
"EVERY BIT AS GOOD AS ELLA"...H. N. Lieber, BROADCAST---"JUST EXCELLENT"...NAT Hentoff, noted Musicologist & Critic--- "REFRESHING!"...Jim Smith WBBA-FM Chicago
"Savina is superb...she has a quality in her voice that sets one's mind dreaming of star-filled nights and rolling surfs"... Chuck Mitchell, Chicagoland Broadcasters
"Savina is reminiscent of the great sound of June Christy- Anita O'Day and Chris Conner.She should receive national attention...she has a refreshing approach to many evergreens and she has brought back"taste" with the help of some jazz giants"...Art Vincent, The Art of Jazz
"At a time when jazz and pop music are becoming increasingly specialized and rarefied, Savina's music will come as a balm to ears of the more mature nightclub type audience"...Graham Masterson, Penthouse Magazine, Lndn
Savina has a great feel for Jazz ...very intimate and personal stuff, glows with warmth... her choice of material and musicians is excellent"... Al Kaessler, WJMD, Washington DC
"Savina is most enjoyable to listen to...her singing is superb. Especially delighted with her Ellington numbers"... William Gunther, WEVD, New York
"This is Jazz Royale! Savina's album is really right for jazzophiles who dig music especially for dancing and relaxed listening. Thank good musicianship, the jazzman featured on this album bring back classic sounds that for too long have not been heard with a good singer. This album will warm you on a cold winter night and keep you cool in the heat of summer - that's the balanced artistry of Savina and these fine Musicians. Give us more Savina, so we can get to know you better!"... Barbara Williams, Reflected Expressions: Jazz Magazine
"When Savina sings, she not only reaches you, she touches you!"... Bob Bruno, WVIP, Mt. Kisco, N
"I did an hour of my show, playing cuts from the (pre-release) album and talking with Savina...It was the best hour of my entire radio career. She knows her stuff and her history. She looks, sounds great. Earthy and real, has a great sense of humor, and is a classy lady."...Tom Davis, (Syndicated show) WRVR, NY