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Russian Jazz Vocalist Svetlana Celebrates 'Night at the Movies' on Singers Unlimited

Courtesy of the artist

Svetlana came from Russia to America as a kid. She spoke little or no English. She learned some of the language seeing movies. Growing up in Moscow, movies were windows on the world outside of Soviet walls. 

Svetlana also gravitated to singers — especially jazz singers, especially Ella Fitzgerald. Her love of jazz and movies comes together on her new album, Night at the Movies.

She sings favorite songs from favorite movies of the ‘30s: Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” Judy Garland’s “Over The Rainbow,” Jiminy Cricket’s “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and fellow Russian expat Irving Berlin’s “Cheek To Cheek.”

She sings cinematic songs from all the decades: “Moon River,” “Pure Imagination,” Stephen Sondheim’s Oscar-winning “Sooner or Later,” and one of the most upbeat songs of recent years, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, as a duet with trombonist Wycliffe Gordon. Another highlight hearkens back to her homeland: “No One’s Home,” sung in Russian.

Svetlana will celebrate Night at the Movies with a concert on Sept. 21 at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan. And she came to WBGO, singing with her band and talking with me on Singers Unlimited.

Here is “Moonlight,” in a Gil Goldstein arrangement, with Wayne Tucker on trumpet, Christopher McBride on saxophone, Addison Frey on piano, Elias Baley on bass and Henry Conerway on drums.

Audio mix and video editing: Corey Goldberg

Videography: Chris Tobin

Michael Bourne, who died on August 21, 2022, was a presence on the air at WBGO between the end of 1984 and the start of 2022 when he retired from full-time hosting duty. He is the host of the Singers Unlimited Podcast by WBGO Studios. Previously, he hosted the popular Singers Unlimited (1985-2022). He also hosted the equally popular Blues Break for several years. Michael is a senior contributor to Down Beat, with the magazine since 1969. Doctor Bourne earned a PhD in Theatre from Indiana University -- which comes in handy when he's a theatre critic for the WBGO Journal.