Samara Joy – Linger Awhile
(Verve 4826649. Album review by Adam Sieff)
Samara Joy’s eponymous debut album released by Whirlwind during the Summer of 2021 was a masterpiece. Supported by a trio led by the astonishing guitarist Pasquale Grasso with double bassist Ari Roland and drummer Kenny Washington, the 22 -year old New Yorker showed that she had all the qualities necessary to become a major star – the voice, talent, heart and personality. Since then she’s made all the right moves, toured internationally and built a strong online following (over 965 million TikTok views) and becoming a jazz messenger to zoomers.
Just one year later and Joy has moved up to the big leagues with Verve Records (part of mammoth Universal) and now releases her second album Linger Awhile that’s even better than the first one. Grasso and Washington are still present, but David Wong takes over on double bass and pianist Ben Paterson joins to expand the lineup to a quartet. With manager/producer Matt Pierson again at the helm, the overall direction is unchanged with standards predominant and tasteful musicianship with a classic sound that could have been recorded anytime since Norman Granz founded Verve in 1956.
Joy has become an even better singer without losing any of the freshness and exuberance that made her first album so…joyous. She’s expanded her repertoire and presents her vocalese skills, transforming Lester Young’s elegant lines with new lyrics on I’m Confessin’ and also on Fats Navarro’s horn solo on Nostalgia (The Day I Knew). Both work extremely well, as does a version of Gigi Gryce and Jon Hendricks’ Social Call where she gives props to the vocalese pioneer.
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There are a few surprises among the better known tunes, such as a swinging version of pianist Ronell Bright’s Sweet Pumpkin (first recorded by Bill Henderson) where she really stretches out and Grasso adds a typically stunning solo. She performs an adventurous ‘Round Midnight, the band augmented with horns from saxophonist Kendrick McCallister, trumpeter Terell Stafford and trombonist Donovan Austin. Misty is gorgeous, Garner’s classic never sounded fresher.
The addition of Paterson’s piano brings colour and depth to the arrangements. He plays with a wonderful touch and slots in perfectly alongside Grasso and the excellent rhythm section of Wong and Washington. Grasso’s speed, accuracy and feel are extraordinary, his solo on the title track is exhilarating and his playing on Sweet Pumpkin is terrific. And the gentle support he offers Joy in their closing duet of Someone To Watch Over Me gives must her the confidence to perform at her best.
There’s no second album syndrome to be found here. Samara Joy sings some of the best jazz music you can hear today.
Release date 16 September
LINKS: Samara Joy’s Website
Categories: Album reviews