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The Verve label boasts a distinguished history of recording stellar vocalists. Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Shirley Horn and Lizz Wright are but a few from their prodigious roster. Stylists all, one aspect they have in common is an ability to state the lyricist’s intent beautifully and plaintively, without the hyperbole so evident in some of today’s critically acclaimed songstresses.
Recent Verve signee Samara Joy leans toward a similar tradition. In her first recording, we hear a 22-year-old talent who seems very much at ease with presenting a quantity of love songs with tasteful nuance, evincing a beautiful tone and superb diction. In the same manner that no two speaking voices are exactly alike, Joy possesses the mature understanding that no one else sings like her. So, why bog it down with too many extra notes or other extravagant add-ons that seem so much in vogue?
Beyond that, her presentation digs deeply into the history of jazz vocals without obvious allusion to any one voice in particular. Her 10-song repertoire is another matter, specifying a definite affinity for names such as Thelonious Monk with “’Round Midnight,” Erroll Garner’s “Misty” and the Gershwin brothers’ “Someone To Watch Over Me.” Even more jazz orientation comes via Joy’s vocalese —setting her words to transcribed instrumental improvisations. Solos by bop trumpeter Fats Navarro on “Nostalgia (The Day I Knew)” and tenor saxophonist Lester Young’s swinging improv over the changes to “I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You)” take on significant reincarnations via Joy’s vocal skills and creative librettos.
In an era of musical overproduction, Joy’s compact, highly cohesive backing group of pianist Ben Paterson, guitarist Pasquale Grasso, bassist David Wong and drummer Kenny Washington is appreciable for its spacious empathy. Only “’Round Midnight” adds personnel, courtesy of a solid three-man horn section. — James Rozzi https://open.spotify.com/album/1TZ16QfCsARON0efp6mGga?si=edRanlx6SZuOMuE3ctjiYw