We first introduced our readers to jazz vocalist Samara Joy, who appeared on Bruce Harris’ Soundview, released just a few weeks ago. Now Joy delivers her self-titled debut, after winning the Sarah Vaughn International Jazz Vocal Competition. Consider that past winners include the likes of Jazzmeia Horn and it harbingers great things to come for the 21-year-old Joy. Like many female jazz vocalists, Joy cuts her chops be beginning with The Great American Songbook, backed by jazz guitarist Pasquale Grasso and his trio with bassist Ari Roland and drummer Kenny Washington.
Joy admits to emulating as much as possible the styles of Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, generally considered the best two female jazz vocalists in history for this type of material. Lifelong jazz listeners will immediately associate Pasquale’s melodic guitar style with master Joe Pass, who accompanied Fitzgerald, Vaughan, and Sinatra at various points in his career. Joy has an immaculately smooth, perfectly pitched delivery that leans heavily toward tradition but at the same time emits a youthful quality and unique phrasing behind new arrangements of these classic tunes. Listen to the purity of her voice reaching into the higher registers as she finished “Everything Happens to Me.” Grasso is ready to step in at the drop of a hat as she completes a verse, with the veteran rhythm tandem adding a natural swing to the proceedings.
“Everything Happens to Me,” and “If You Never Fall in Love with Me” evoke mostly Ella while “But Beautiful,” “Let’s Dream in the Moonlight” and “Jim” nod to Billie Holiday’s original versions. She takes pages out of Nat King Cole’s book with “It Only Happens Once,” “Trouble with Me Is You,” and to a lesser extent with the opening “Stardust.” She delivers a sublime version of “Lover Man” and picks up the tempo with “Only a Moment Ago” and “Moonglow” with the trio swinging in fine form. “But Beautiful” closes in classic late-night balladry.
Welcome the precocious, velvet-toned Samara Joy to the ever growing, competitive field of female jazz vocalists. She is one to watch.
- Jim Hynes
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