Jan 12, 2015
“These are real experiences that I’ve had, and I want somebody else to know that they’re not alone. That’s what the blues is all about. It’s about togetherness. It’s not just, ‘I’ve got the blues.’ It’s not just, ‘I’m not OK.’ It’s ‘Let’s bear this all together.’” – Allegra Levy
A few listens to Lonely City, and you’re thinking “This is a really good album.” When you realize the songs – which sound strikingly like tunes you’ve heard before – are all originals written by the singer, you’re thinking “This is a really big talent.” And then, when you realize that the singer-songwriter is 24 and this is her first album, you’re thinking “I’ve got to tell someone about her.”
And so I am.
Not only has Allegra Levy emerged from her tenure at New England Conservatory and the clubs of New York with a voice coming into its own, but she also writes songs a veteran would be proud to call their own. She has wisely put together a veteran band to back her, fleshing out her tunes by adding color and soul. She fronts a tight quintet led by Adam Kolker (sax) and John Bailey (trumpet), with the rising young star pianist Carmen Staaf (recently chosen as the pianist in the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at UCLA's Herb Alpert School of Music) the band’s secret weapon. Drummer Richie Barshay, a veteran of the Herbie Hancock Quartet, ties it all together beautifully. Kudos go to John McNeil for his many arrangements and production of the session, allowing the band to play and not merely back Ms. Levy up, making this a real jazz album.
Guest spots by the great guitarist Steve Cardenas (“Anxiety”) and violinist Mark Feldman (“Everything Green”) add to the accompaniment that showcases Ms. Levy’s talents. She sings of lost (misplaced?) love with the eye of a sadder but wiser girl, particularly on “I’m Not Okay”, her voice emerging from a mildly dissonant opening from Kolker and Bailey, recalling Peggy Lee in her approach. “Everything Green” lets her open with wordless singing, setting the mood before delivering the dramatic, torchy tune in her upper register. Listen to “A New Face”, and tell me you’re not dealing with someone with real talent.
Levy is currently completing a seven-month residency at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong, getting the chance to hone her craft in an increasingly rare residency. Book me a table when she comes back stateside in the Spring.