San & Emily Slomovits
Like father, like daughter
by Stephanie Douglass
The Slomovitses are Ann Arbor's enduring yet youthful musical family, best known to local kids and their parents as Gemini, the children's musical duo of twin brothers Laszlo and Sandor Slomovits, who have been performing together since 1973. Now, another Slomovits pair is poised, with its boundless charisma and talent, to capture the affections of local music lovers. San, who's also an Observer contributor, has recently been sharing the stage with his daughter, Emily, in a varied program of acoustic music showcasing their harmonious collaboration. These performances precede the release of the duo's debut album, Innocent When You Dream.
Emily, nineteen and a recent Rudolf Steiner High School graduate, began playing violin at age seven. By eight, still young enough to blend into the effervescent crowd that attends a Gemini concert, she was joining her father and uncle onstage, melodiously adorning their performance. Over the years she became adept at classical violin, while learning folk and jazz fiddle and guitar and polishing her vocals. Like San and Laz, Emily has the Slomovits gift for filling a space with beautiful music brimming with cheer and warmth. At a recent show, father and daughter glided between popular songs, anecdotes, and jokes, displaying ease and grace towards each other, their music, and their listeners. Theirs is an inclusive music making that diminishes the boundary between performers and audience, like having friends sitting down to sing and play guitar in your living room.
These, though, are friends who can draw from a substantial repertoire. Innocent When You Dream includes the centuries-old Scottish and Irish traditional "The Parting Glass," Townes Van Zandt's mournful ballad "Flyin' Shoes," and the popular nueva cancion anthem "Gracias a la Vida." Their cover of the latter song, written by the Chilean folk musician Violeta Parra, is crisp and invigorating, and Emily's sparkling soprano vocals evoke Joan Baez (who herself covered the song decades ago). The charming melody is accentuated by Emily's violin, San's guitar and vocal accompaniment, and
upright bass played by the skillful Jacob Warren, Emily's Steiner classmate since elementary school. San and Emily also venture into pop and jazz, with renditions of "Moon River" and "Take Five," and their live performance offers a range of surprises, from "O Sole Mio" to Brahms' Hungarian Dance No. 5, a nod to San and Laz's birthplace, Budapest.
It seems that another Slomovits trait is the ability to create enchanting vocal harmonies, evidenced by San and Emily's stunning duet version of the English folk ballad "The Water Is Wide." Their entwined voices transform the album's title track, a Tom Waits barroom ballad, from gruff, beer-stained wretchedness to pretty melancholy.
San and Emily Slomovits perform at the Ark on August 10 (see Nightspots) with Laz Slomovits, bassist Warren, and pianist Brian Brill.
[Originally published in August, 2013.]