IVANA SANTILLI at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), Saturday (January 19). $10. 416-596-1908.
ivana santilli sounds a bit hesi-tant about her overdue return to the stage Saturday (January 19) at the Rivoli.The Toronto soul jazz singer hasn't played live since April 2001, the final show in a gruelling year and a half of club dates, opening slots for Tito Puente and lucrative corporate gigs. Her solo debut, Brown, and her band's increasingly slick live sets proved that Santilli could cut it beyond the confines of her former trio, Bass Is Base, but the non-stop touring finally took its toll.
The result was almost a year of silence during which she focused mainly on listening to records rather than making them. Now, as Santilli begins to assemble the songs that will eventually form a follow-up album, the slinky singer is trying to figure out the best way to unveil her new sound and whether she's ready to start playing live again.
"I needed to lie low for a while," Santilli says from the studio. "Ever since the Bass Is Base thing, it was non-stop. I also wanted to distance myself from the old material and not regurgitate the old stuff."
As accomplished as Brown was, the disc, particularly its production, was underwhelming. The Movement collective's smashing remix of Santilli's If I Ever Fall in Love, which ended up rocking dance floors from Kyoto to Brighton, brought a different spark to the singer's soulful crooning and showed what she could do with some outside direction.
To her credit, Santilli herself recognizes this. For her new tracks, she's enlisted the help of outside producers including Philly soul/house giant King Britt, Jay from BrassMunk and Solitaire.
"I come from a live background, so I'd always wanted things to sound live. The struggle for me was to embrace programming and things that were more sample-based.
"The goal is the same, though. I still want to make strong songs with hot production. The songs have to be there, though. If you take the production away from a lot of current music, there is no song. Britney Spears's Slave 4 U has a hot beat, but if you took that away and tried to play it on an acoustic guitar it'd fall apart.
"I bring the songs, and then we combine them with the beats. It's a real exchange instead of me just singing over someone's beats."
Anyone interested in hearing the results of Santilli's new experimenting had better come to Saturday's gig. A handful of new tracks have been completed, but the singer is explicit about there being no concrete plans for a complete second disc, at least until a backer can be found for these collaborations.
"I'm not going for an album," she insists. "I'm just working song by song. I know what I want the entire album to sound like, but that's going to take time.
"I've got a lot of songs written, but the production end of it is another thing entirely. It's expensive to work with these guys, and I'm not interested in doing it cheaply. There's no rush."firstname.lastname@example.org