Germana Stella La Sorsa refers to herself as a jazz singer and storyteller. With her debut album Vapour, released on the 33Jazz Label, she explores the crossroads of many musical components, including story, composition, genre and style as well as instrumentation and effect. Feature by Lavender Sutton.
This isn’t just another vocal jazz album. La Sorsa’s influences and experiences have fed into an eclectic mix of songs including original music as well as a reimagined jazz standard, a Frank Zappa song and a Hermeto Pascoal composition.
La Sorsa has chosen to break with convention and record this album using an organ trio. Featuring long-time friend and collaborator Sam Leak on organ, Nick Costley-White on guitar and Jay Davis on drums. She describes the set up as very cooperative. The relationship they’ve established together helps bring the vision to life. All three musicians are notable in their own right and La Sorsa has spoken about how their encouragement has helped her come out of her shell as bandleader.
When recording her original tracks, In the Beginning, Vapour and Following the Flow, she went into the studio and laid out the general themes for her band but wanted the music to happen organically as a group. The improvisation and wordless melodies that come out blend seamlessly together as her band responds to one another in real time.
In her collaboration with bassist Joe Boyle on the track In Time and (S)Pace, La Sorsa makes use of vocal effects to summon feelings of calm and images of openness. These songs are what create a foundation for the other tunes – a basis for the melting pot of music that she has chosen to bring together.
As well as these originals, La Sorsa has included some unique selections to reflect her wide range of musical influences. Her relationship with rock music stems from her family, an important thread in a musician’s genesis. And while she points out that Frank Zappa wasn’t a fan of jazz himself, he was composing melodies that definitely fit the jazz aesthetic. As she draws out the harmonic intricacies of his song Inca Roads, it’s easy to see the correlations between rock legends and the jazz world.
If I Fall in Love is a reharmonization of the jazz standard When I Fall in Love by Victor Young and Edward Heyman. By changing the melody slightly, La Sorsa has allowed for new lyrics and a new feel to emerge. She’s identified Esperanza Spalding as one of her inspirations and this track is very similar in style.
Hermeto Pascoal’s track Tacho stems from another aspect of La Sorsa’s musical timeline and gives a bit more context to her love of improvised jazz. Here, the complex melody is rooted in a catchy groove and gives all the musicians a chance to exercise their improv chops. Tacho means ‘pot’ or ‘saucepan’ in Portuguese – a metaphor for all the musical elements that have come together to result in this album.
After a great deal of anticipation, La Sorsa is excited to finally present the Vapour album launch on 30 April, International Jazz Day, at The Vortex Jazz Club. The gig features the same line up, but this time with Tom Ollendorff on guitar. All the tracks from the album will be featured, bringing a new creative element for both the musicians and the audience as they will take shape in entirely different ways, allowing for new improvisations and collaborative freedom.
She speaks confidently about the joy that this process has brought. Though apprehensive at first, the experience of delving creatively into this project has opened the musical floodgates. La Sorsa’s productivity and creativity is starting to flow out of her with more urgency than ever before. With the release of Vapour has come an evolution of a musical personality.
The launch is set to be a snapshot of how far she’s come, both musically and personally, celebrating some great milestones with her trio and fans alike. However, this is only the beginning. With her roots established now through this debut, La Sorsa is quickly shaping her identity as an artist. She’s been busy composing new music and this concert will give listeners an opportunity to join her as she travels in this new found direction.
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