Live reviews

Samara Joy at the Jazz Cafe

Samara Joy

(Jazz Cafe Camden Town. 7 March 2023. Live review by Sebastian Scotney)

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Samara Joy. Phone snap

Inexorable. Inevitable. Meteoric. Well-deserved. Heartening. Rapid. All of the above. The adjectives to describe the rise in the profile of vocalist Samara Joy really don’t run dry. Her rise has been happening since she won the Sarah Vaughan Competition in 2019, but has really gathered pace in the past few weeks since she won a brace of Grammy’s for both “Best Jazz Vocal Album” AND “Best New Artist” at the Grammy’s. And last night at Jazz Cafe, it was not hard to see why.

As Adam Sieff wrote in his review of her album “Samara Joy” in 2021, she is indeed “a young singer with the level of talent that only surfaces once in a blue moon.” I want to salute Adam’s consistent advocacy in his writing about her, ever since she took a guest slot in Ruben Fox’s debut album (REVIEW), and through her two Matt Pierson-produced albums, the first for Whirlwind. the second “Linger Awhile” (Verve) .

There was so much to enjoy in her London show at the Jazz Cafe. Those fearless adventures upwards into head-voice. The capturing of the moods of different songs, and her refreshing way with jazz standards, her ease as performer….A personal highlight was the second half opener, the pairing of Nancy Wilson’s “Guess Who I Saw Today” segue-ing and sliding effortlessly into Stevie Wonder’s “Lately”. This pair of songs let her astonishing musicianship and ability to unfold a story be heard at their absolute best.

A fine trio too : pianist Luther Allison, bassist Michael Migliore and drummer Evan Sherman had a wonderful sense of pacing and level. They are promising to come back. She absolutely packed out the Jazz Cafe last night, and it’s a fair bet she’ll be in bigger venues soon. Inevitably and deservedly.

Samara Joy – Jazz Café – Setlist

This Is the Moment

Can’t Get Out of This Mood


Flor de lis (Djavan)

Nostalgia / The Day I knew (new words to tune by Fats Navarro)

Tight – Betty Carter

– Interval –

Guess Who I Saw Today (Nancy Wilson) /Lately – Stevie Wonder

Something Big – Betty Carter

Worry Later – Thelonious Monk

Round Midnight – Thelonious Monk

Linger Awhile


– Encore –Sweet Pumpkin

3 replies »

  1. I first heard Samara Joy sing on one of Emmet Cohen’s Monday evening livestreams. An amazing talent. Got to hear her sing last year at Ronnie Scott’s. Yes, an amazing talent.

  2. For the set list, I think the “Blues” are Buzz Me Baby Blues, popularised by Louis Jordan and/or Ellie Mae Morse.

    Otherwise, great review!

  3. Saw her at Pizza Express, Holborn last year and knew I was one of the lucky ones to witness her before she, as you acknowledge, perform at much, much bigger venues. Struck not only by her voice but her self-assured and confident way with the audience, her storytelling and warmth. All this and still in her early twenties. Wow, simply amazing.

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