Sandy Asirvatham

Sandy Asirvatham

 Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Sophisticated, compelling, grown-up songs played over crowd-pleasing progressive grooves. Jazz by way of rock, folk, and funk. "When it comes to crossing invisible musical boundaries Sandy Asirvatham is an innovator."~Michael Buckley MUSIC BOX


Sandy Asirvatham’s new creations feature jazz infused with prose

At the end of the millennium, Sandy Asirvatham was a successful journalist, a popular and provocative columnist for Baltimore’s City Paper, and author of nonfiction books for teens. Her newest creations, however, are original jazz songs.

Armed with an MFA in fiction writing from Columbia University, Sandy was freelancing from home and trying to complete a novel. Instead, she found herself gravitating to the piano.

Hours passed as she sat alone playing and belting out show tunes and pop songs, yearning for an uncertain future. (When would she be able to start a family? Why couldn’t she get past page 150 of her novel?)

Although it had been years since her classical piano studies, music became the center of her creative life. Jazz studies at Towson University and two stints at jazz camp helped her update her skills and jump into a league of top rated musicians. She was soon composing and arranging instrumental music.

Family life anchored Sandy's creative endeavors. When she and her husband adopted a baby in 2003, lullabies were added to her daily musical repertoire. The act of singing simple rhymes to son Miles emboldened her to put her own words to music. By 2006, she had entered a prolific period writing original jazz-inflected songs for grownups.

Today she is a respected jazz pianist, arranger and composer, and her storytelling skills enliven her original songs. Her highly rhythmic and idiosyncratic melodies and lyrics channel some of the darker emotions and brooding thoughts leftover from the sadder times in her life. But she presents them with the light and joyful approach of the mature artist who has learned to make her way in a turbulent world.

Sandy feels incredibly lucky to have found her true calling. She was raised in New Jersey by two physicians, both born in India. The exceeding practical couple tried mightily to steer their two daughters into math and science. Sandy attended the Newark Academy in Livingston. All the art, dance and music lessons she received were meant to round her out and prevent idle hands. Today, though, her parents can hardly argue with her current success at doing what she loves.

In the past five years, she has performed often, leaving a strong impression wherever she appears. Busy with club, concert and festival dates in many cities, her sidemen (and women!) have included heavy hitters from the jazz world, such as bassist Amy Shook, drummer Frank Russo, and trombonist Jim McFalls. Her 2007 album was well received, and audiences are coming out in strong numbers to hear what else this artist has to say.



Sandy Asirvatham’s 2007 CD, MEMOIR, attracted attention from Baltimore to Manhattan. Critic and historian W. Royal Stokes named it as his choice for the year’s best jazz debut in the annual Village Voice poll. The eclectic recording contains nine originals and three freshly reconceived standards, including a haunting rendition of the gospel classic “Motherless Child.” Tracks range from introspective solo piano/voice performances to kinetic full-band arrangements.

Thought-provoking lyrics are framed in jazz harmonies and enlivened with rock, funk and folk grooves. She may appeal to listeners of unique artists like Fiona Apple, and genre -transcending jazz singers like Madeleine Peyroux and Cassandra Wilson. But make no mistake: Sandy Asirvatham has an unforgettable and distinct sound of her own.

“She walks a fine line between singer/songwriter and jazz chanteuse with some Tin Pan Alley in the mix, smartly turning phrases and crafting peculiarly appealing melodies.”
~John Lewis, Baltimore Magazine

“Sandy opened with her sinuous, haunting solo arrangement of “Black Orpheus,” its intriguing melodic and harmonic variations held together by a steady tango-like left hand rhythm…
~Liz Fixsen, Baltimore Jazz Alliance

“What is most engaging for me as an instrumentalist is the surprisingly wide palette of timbres and emotional depth Sandy brings to her music. She is a JOY to work with!”
~Jim McFalls, trombonist and jazz educator



Liz Fixsen, “Sandy Asirvatham and Amanda Olsavsky,” Baltimore Jazz Alliance review, December 2008

Sam Sessa “Baltimore Unsigned,” WTMD 89.7 FM, Towson MD, November 2008

Doc Manning, “In the Tradition,” WEAA 88.9 FM, Baltimore, November 2008

Sam Sessa, “ Meet the Band,” The Baltimore Sun, November 2008

Aaron Henkin, “The Signal,” WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore MD, September 2007

John Lewis, “Play It,” Baltimore Magazine, July 2007

Jenny Wierschem, “She’s Happy For The Right To Sing The Blues,” Baltimore Guide, July 2005



An Die Musik
Artscape 2008
Avalon Ballroom
Baltimore Unsigned, WTMD 89.7 FM


What Have You

Written By: Sandy Asirvatham (BMI)

You've got the house that looks like a magazine spread,
And the job that pays like crime,
You've got the grand ideas busting out of your head,
And the manner so refined,
But you don't have me, you don't have me, you don't have me.

You've got detailed plans to conquer the world,
And the will to make them real.
Much too impatient to watch grit turn to pearl,
So you'll take what you can steal--
But you can't take me, you can't take me, you don't have me....

Just for a moment you were tender and real,
And through your eyes the light was true,
But you'd been schooled to mock the things that you feel,
And concentrate on well-to-do.
It hardly matters now--it was so long ago,
You were young and anxious--what did you know?
And no one told you things just go how they go.
You tried to run your life like some dog-and-pony show,
But you couldn't run me, you can't run me, you don't have me....

Friday Night With The Elephant Man

Written By: Sandy Asirvatham

Friday night with the Elephant Man:
Freak just wants to have fun.
Says, "I don't know
When the pain will end,
But I guess I'm not the only one."

Friday night with the desparate man:
Can't turn his face up to the sun.
Says, "I don't know
What the end will bring,
But I'll lie back now and let it be done...."


Written By: Sandy Asirvatham

"Utter lies," she demanded.
"Tell me what I want to hear.
Let the others be reprimanded--
here you have nothing to fear.
I don't want something as simple
As to know what's really real.
Just the beautiful story that
Won't contradict how I feel."

"It's no use," she explained,
"yearning for the thing that's true.
We all see what we want to see
And do what we do.
I once tried to discover
What there hides behind the veil,
But compared to the fiction,
The facts are awfully pale.
Yes, compared to the fiction,
The facts are awfully pale."


Written By: Sandy Asirvatham

I'm wide awake
Thoughts billow like flame
Night bleeds into day
All hours the same--

Teach me to sleep
Teach me to sleep
Cradle me down into my deep.

The world spins out
Dark echoes appear
My skin won't cool
My mind won't clear
What keeps me pinned
Just lying here?

Teach me to sleep
Teach me to sleep
Cradle me down into my deep....

The Harsh Logic of My Buddhist Buddy

Written By: Sandy Asirvatham

No heavenly scales to set things right
No final judge of awesome might
No realm above and none below
And yet you still reap what you sow, and yet you still reap what you sow.

Don't look for shelter from the skies
Or put much faith in cleric lies
It's best to stick with what we know
That you will still reap what you sow,
That you will still reap what you sow.

Everybody pays a price for everything they do,
everywhere they go,
every day.....

Home With You

Written By: Sandy Asirvatham

Let forces of misrule
Sweep away the day
Let chaos and calamity
Go outside to play
Let drama kings and drama queens
Court doubt and disarray--
I'll stay at home with you.

Let the world outside
Do its screwed-up thing
Let others seek comfort
In shopping sprees and lunch-hour flings--
I don't need anything
But what the quiet hours bring
When I'm at home with you.

If there comes a time
When I think to fly
Just remind me of our
Long days gone by...
The silent moments,
The murmured sighs,
When I'm at home with you.


MEMOIR is now available for purchase at and as well as other online retailers. Full versions of all songs can be streamed at

Sandy has a solid CD's worth of new original material she now plays live and intends to record in early 2009.

Set List

Typical set list varies (see details below). Sandy plays with the full seven-band or various break-outs of the band (quartets or trios). She prefers to play one or two sets of approximately 50 minutes to one hour each, and can easily fill up a two-set event with vibrant, energetic originals and interestingly re-invented covers.

A strongly rhythmic piano player, she has also presented very well-received SOLO piano/vocal featured performances of up to 75 minutes.

FOR OUTDOOR VENUES, FESTIVALS, AND CROWDS WITH BOTH JAZZ AND NON-JAZZ FANS: original and cover songs from MEMOIR, Sandy's new original material for an upcoming CD, and various eclectic cover tunes in Sandy's fresh, modern arrangements, including Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees," The Police's "Walking on the Moon," Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons," and other pop/rock classics from various eras.