Meghan Stabile Brings Marvin Gaye's 'Vulnerable' to Berklee
A couple of years ago, driving around with a friend, Meghan Stabile ‘06 heard something she wasn’t expecting. She could tell the voice was Marvin Gaye’s, yet it was absent his famous Motown sound. Instead, he was jazzy, yet velvety and balladic.
Stabile was listening to what Rolling Stone calls Gaye’s “album of torch songs,” the seven-track orchestral record he worked on for almost a decade and recorded in 1977. The album was put on ice until Motown released it in 1997 under the title Vulnerable.
“It was definitely a completely different side of Marvin Gaye that I was hearing,” Stabile says. “It was in a time when he was kind of exploring his jazz side...it’s just not a record that’s on people’s radar, but it’s really a beautiful album and I just fell in love with it.”
Stabile, who is building a thriving career bringing jazz to younger audiences through her company Revive Music, and now through a new imprint on Blue Note Records, began thinking of ways to get the album on stage.
“That’s what Revive is all about, what we’ve been doing since we started, which is really to create the best live experience to bring people to understand and create their own relationship with jazz,” she says.
On December 4 at the Berklee Performance Center (BPC), that best live experience will include a 40-piece orchestra and some of Stabile's favorite jazz artists and longtime collaborators recreating Gaye’s album.
When putting the show together, Stabile first came up with a wish list: those musicians she believed could ideally represent Gaye’s music. Luckily, her list turned into the line-up: “Aloe Blacc and Bilal and Chris (Turner) were always in our top choosing for artists. I think Chris Turner already sounds like Marvin in the music he does now.”
It was just as important to her that she got her first choice for musical director and composer, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. “Without him our vision of the way the music is composed and arranged would be different.”
The artists will be backed by the Berklee Neo-Soul Ensemble, directed by Skip Smith, and the Berklee Contemporary Symphony Orchestra.
For two nights prior, Stabile will produce smaller performances leading up to the BPC show. On December 2, trumpeter and Berklee alumnus Igmar Thomas '06 hosts the Evolution Jam Session at Wally's Cafe Jazz Club, and on December 3, the Revive Big Band will play at Berklee’s Cafe 939. The 9:00 p.m. performance will be broadcast to more than 100 National Public Radio (NPR) stations as part of NPR Music’s new national program, Jazz Night in America.
The trinity of shows will mark the first time Stabile has organized events in Boston since leaving eight years ago for New York City. In 2006, she founded Revive while she was studying music business at Berklee and tending bar at Wally’s, where she became inspired by the jazz acts playing at the club and began to think of ways to bring the music—sometimes mixed with hip-hop—to fresh audiences.
“It’s amazing that it has come full circle,” she says of coming back. “To actually say now, eight years later, that we’re doing exactly what we set out to start, is amazing. Being able to get recognition in the way that we have—being able to just really do what we set out to do—is amazing.”