Hannah Baiardi Defies Genre Boundaries on New ‘Straight from the Soul’ Album

Hannah Baiardi
Hannah Baiardi blends jazzy grooves with soulful rhythms on her new album, Straight from the Soul. Photo by Carlos Funn of Funn Foto.

Hannah Baiardi elegantly creates outside the lines.

The Ann Arbor vocalist-composer and pianist seamlessly fuses intimate jazzy grooves with rhythmic world sensibilities on her new genre-busting album, Straight from the Soul.

Out today via all streaming platforms and a multi-textured successor to 2018’s piano-driven “The Quietest Place” EP, Baiardi’s latest release features an invigorating fusion of spirited original compositions and fresh arrangements of timeless classics across eight magnetic tracks.

“From the album’s inception, I had this vision of defying boundaries in terms of genre and expectation. It’s very blended, and that was intentional. I wanted it to be an artistic statement in that this is my creative voice, but you’ll also hear from a smattering of influences that I’ve had,” said Baiardi, a University of Michigan jazz studies graduate.

Baiardi beautifully laid the rich, timeless foundation for Straight from the Soul with Eric Wojahn at Ann Arbor’s Solid Sound Recording Company last year. A series of socially distanced recording sessions allowed Baiardi’s tracks to evolve as she invited an all-star roster of musicians, including Marion Hayden (bass), Ryan King (bass), and Karen Tomalis (drums, percussion), to create an expansive, emotive sound.

“When you play with seasoned Detroit musicians who have this great legacy in jazz roots, they really let the music speak. They’re no longer reading music at that point; they’re just being themselves and letting the music flow through them,” she said.

Baiardi’s exquisite sound instantly flows through her cinematic rendition of Michel Legrand’s 1968 composition, “The Windmills of Your Mind,” which was first introduced in “The Thomas Crown Affair.” Shimmery piano rotations, tranquil drums, soft cymbal taps, and spellbinding bass create a welcoming, jazz-induced state of euphoric hypnagogia.

With lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Baiardi soulfully reflects, “Like a door that keeps revolving in a half-forgotten dream/Or the ripples from a pebble someone tosses in a stream/Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of its face/And the world is like an apple whirling silently in space.”

Hannah Baiardi
Hannah Baiardi’s Straight from the Soul album features spirited original compositions and fresh arrangements of timeless classics. Photo by Carlos Funn of Funn Foto.

“This song is like a hidden gem, and it’s very special to me. I want to convey that personal connection through a twist or new arrangement that makes it fresh and modern. It brings it into the timeline now, but it still takes us back to the melody,” Baiardi said.

Baiardi carries that enchanting melody forward on “Let Go,” a groovy, sensual pop-soul-EDM duet with tenor vocalist David Magumba. Deep, fervent keys, tingling cymbal taps, smooth bass, and exuberant drums celebrate a natural connection between two partners on the dancefloor.

She freely sings, “When you feel it/Make your way across the floor/I want to move to the rhythms/Sinking deep into my soul/Let’s boogie down/With your love that fills my very soul/With joy and strength to let go.”

“We found a connection in trying to create our own sound and niche. We sat down in a practice room and within five minutes started writing the beginning of ‘Let Go.’ He wrote the majority of the lyrics, and I wrote the majority of the music. They really just complement each other nicely,” Baiardi said.

Baiardi nicely closes Straight from the Soul’s hypnotic, versatile sound with “Transit,” a reflective piano instrumental that glistens like fresh morning dew droplets in the mind’s eye. Sparkling piano soars and shifts with each melodic chord progression to provide a much-needed emotional release.

“I’ve been diving into the world of sound, and I think there’s a future in this music. Some people call it minimalism and others call it New Age, but I think it serves a meditative purpose in that it’s music for healing. I included this song as the ending of a new beginning, and there will be more of this coming,” said Baiardi, who’s inspired by George Winston, Ludovico Einaudi, and Gabríel Ólafs.