In what must just be a funny coincidence, Steve Markoff and Patricia Lazzara’s newest cover of “You Raise Me Up” takes on a very meta stance, as the two raise each other up with their respective talents. The pair best known for their 2019 album “Timeless” which saw them transform multiple hits into riveting minimalist covers backed by their strong flutist abilities, Markoff being an alto and Lazzara classically trained.
“You Raise Me Up” was of course popularized by Tener powerhouse Josh Groban back in 2003 and saw him receive a grammy nod in 2005. While the song hasn’t quite faltered in popularity and remains a hit amongst music students looking to show off their skills, Markoff and Lazzara take a different approach, crafting an intimate affair no doubt with the help of Grammy nominee pianist Allison Brewster Franzetti. In my opinion, it transforms the bombastic track into something that more casual listeners can enjoy especially in social settings, but the craftsmanship on display keeps it from simply being a cover that a lesser refined production would be found in a doctor’s office or a massage parlor. With merely three instruments the trio have turned in a cover that I can easily see becoming many people’s favorite and I’d argue turns the song into something more easily accessible for those off-put by the theatrics present in previous versions.
Following the beautiful piano intro that sets the somber, focused and melancholy tone, Lazzara and Markoff’s flutist abilities truly get to shine and in a way, reflects their background as Markoff was once a student at Lazzara. Lazzara’s work grounds the piece, beautifully accompanied by Franzetti, who never swerves into flashy, over the top territory, and even when the song switches gears slightly to allow Markoff’s fluid, focused, nearly improvisational alto to shine all without overpowering the song or becoming grating. It’s very clear that the work the trio have crafted is never a self-centered showcase of their own abilities.
It’s very confident and self-assured and you know that for them, the music comes first along with the emotions it can elicit. In a lot of ways, I wish this was the version of the song I was introduced to, not only for its peaceful atmosphere, but because it’s a showcase of what a minimalist approach can do. It’s quiet, but it does escalate and never grows static, but it also makes the wise move of exchanging the larger than life ending and instead placing its heights in the middle, making the ending act as an almost bittersweet sendoff, like you’re saying goodbye to a friend. To call Markoff, Lazzara and co “good cover artists” would be wildly reductive.
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They’re a collective intent on presenting familiar works in a new light, not capitalizing on nostalgia because at a certain point early on listening to the track, I completely stopped thinking about any other version I’d heard prior. The pair want to take you someplace beautiful and serene and the end result is a cinematic soundscape built on the talent of masters, all raising each other.