Album reviews

Germana Stella La Sorsa- ‘Vapour’

Germana Stella La Sorsa- Vapour

(33 Jazz. Digital Only. Album review by Alison Bentley)

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The first thing you notice about this album is Germana Stella La Sorsa’s beautiful voice; next you focus on the quartet’s eclectic range of music, and then the way the emotional directness and playing pull it all together. La Sorsa is Italian, now based in London, and this is her first album, with a talented UK band.

La Sorsa is very much a part of the band. They start with a short, improvised piece, In the Beginning. The voice is dreamy, a little breathy and perfectly accurate, nestling among Sam Leak’s Hammond and Nick Costley-White‘s guitar. The combination of Hammond and guitar (La Sorsa grew up listening to Santana) is pleasantly unusual in the context of improvised and modal jazz, and it has an evanescent quality. Her composition Vapour begins with a vocal riff, sung wordlessly Norma Winstone-style, with a gentle insistence in unison with the guitar. Jay Davis’ drums are loosely Latin and creative- it all sounds focused and free. There’s a little treatment on the voice which adds to the sense of mystery.

If I Fall in Love is her take on When I Fall in Love, the melody and lyrics tweaked into a darker mode with chords to fit. It has a more tentative feel- definitely “If…” not “When…” The guitar solo with its unexpected intervals rests on the dry papery Hammond sound; vocal harmonies are layered behind an impassioned drum solo.

La Sorsa has said that her “vocal inspirations are actually not entirely jazz,” and her treatment of Frank Zappa’s 70s jazz rock song Inca Roads is intimate and beautifully sparse. A languid back beat implies but doesn’t overstate rock energy. Voice and guitar play the precipitous melody in unison; the vocal and guitar solos lean on the Hammond’s textures. The full range of La Sorsa’s voice is shown in her In Time and (S)pace, with its feathery cymbals, unusual chord sequence and enigmatic Hammond.

Hermeto Pascoal’s Tacho returns us to the 70s; the vocals have a delicate focus recalling the way Esperanza Spalding uses the voice as an instrument, both ethereal and rhythmic. The Hammond solo keeps the energy crackling as the drums drive everything forwards. They end with another short improvised piece, Following the Flow, the voice picking up phrases from the other instruments and throwing them back till they’re indistinguishable from each other.

It’s a thoughtful, original and very musically satisfying album.

LINKS: Germana Stella la Sorsa on Bandcamp

Feature about Vapour

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