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Samara Joy at the Barbican (EFG LJF 2023)

Samara Joy
(Barbican. 19 November 2023. EFG LJF. Review by Lavender Sutton)

Samara Joy, Luther Allison, Barbican Hall debut for the singer. Photo by Mark Allan/ Serious

Samara Joy has only been out of college since May 2021 and at the young age of 24, she has been hailed as the gen-Z voice of jazz. She won the 2019 Sarah Vaughan international Jazz Voice competition, has since released two albums, won two Grammy awards for her album “Linger Awhile” including the prestigious award for best new artist in 2022 and has been nominated already for another this year. 

Sunday night she finished her tour at the Barbican, closing the EFG London Jazz Festival to a sold out audience, ending with a standing ovation. No doubt! 

The set up of the instruments on the stage seemed small and inconspicuous until they entered and Joy took her place at the microphone. It wasn’t her sequined costume but more to do with her actual presence that commanded the space. She started with the most chilling a cappella version of Mingus’ “Reincarnation of a Lovebird”, to which she had written her own lyrics. The room was silent as she weaved her way through the piece, perhaps in shock that this was only the beginning. When the band came in, the audience erupted and there was a gargantuan exhale felt throughout. 

The night continued, with fan favourites from her two albums and a few other surprising gems, including a ‘mash-up’ of Guess Who I Saw Today and Stevie Wonder’s song Lately.

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She gave each musician on stage their chance to develop and shine and we heard many entrancing solos from Luther Allison on piano. Tasteful accompaniment from Mikey Migliore and Evan Sherman, they all performed so tightly, (including the song Tight) of course, having being on tour for the better part of the month. 

Joy’s choice of songs gave her free reign of her full range and she utilised so many musical techniques, stretching and manipulating her voice to sound like every jazz vocalist she’s ever heard but never once falling into an imitation. Truly, one-hundred per cent herself. It is baffling to imagine where she’ll be in ten years time.

1 reply »

  1. I saw her at the Pizza Express in Holborn a few months before she won the Grammy and aside from her vocal range, skill, I was struck by her stage presence. Despite her age she appeared incredibly relaxed, self-assured and 100% herself. What a talent!

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