Lucid Culture


A Vivid, Original, Brightly Tuneful Debut Album From Jazz Singer Alyssa Giammaria

Alyssa Giammaria has a soaring, warmly mapled, crystalline voice and writes ambitious but similarly translucent jazz songs. Her debut album Moments is streaming at Bandcamp. It’s always a treat to discover vocal jazz as imaginative and individualistic as this: we hear all kinds of cliches about “fresh new voices,” but Giammaria is the real deal.

The album’s first track is Beginning and End, a wistful contemplation of impermanence, whether in relationships or otherwise, “tracing darkness,” as Giammaria puts it. Leighton McKinley Harrell’s starkly bowed bass behind the vocals expands to a lustrous brass arrangement over a steady sway. Pianist Jen Lo plays an elegantly ornamented solo with unexpected peaks as drummer Jacob Slous edges toward a shuffle.

The horns – trumpeters Evan Dalling and Christian Antonacci and trombonist Nick Adema – build bright harmonies to introduce the album’s title track, Giammaria revisiting a hopeful/downcast dichotomy. Adams’ bubbling solo over Lo’s three-on-four and Harrell’s dancing bass raise the optimism even as Giammaria confides that “I won’t stay the same.”

“How many times do I have to start over?” she muses over Lo’s spare resonance in Understand, a pensive but brightly lyrical duo ballad. “I learn to leave all the things that don’t find me.”

Harrell scrambles uphill by himself to kick off For Myself, a darkly clustering, soul-infused modal ballad. This time it’s a trumpet solo that pushes the clouds aside, setting up the bandleader’s guardedly cheery scatting. The contrast between the band’s polyrhythmic intensity, and Giammaria’s self-admonition to think for herself in the most pivotal moments, is visceral.

“There is an answer to the emptiness of now,” she asserts in the album’s final number, What About. Yet, there’s an inescapable vulnerability and woundedness in her airy vocalese over the group’s lively, altered shuffle. What a breath of fresh air this is: let’s hope there’s more where this comes from.

November 9, 2021 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment