Argentinian singer-songwriter Sofía Rei draws from a multitude of discrete musical sources to create her gripping, impassioned compositions. Free improv, flamenco, South American folk tunes, klezmer, modern jazz—anything that is rhythmic and stirring and meaningful. This month, the Grammy-nominated Rei will present representative selections from her manifold projects at The Stone at The New School, with a different set each evening April 24-28.
Rei opens her run at The Stone with an homage to Chilean singer-songwriter Violetta Parra, whose work she commemorated with the 2017 album El Gavilán (Cascabelera Records). On this duo album with electric guitarist Marc Ribot, Rei re-arranged Parra’s much-beloved Latin American folk songs using looped vocals and electronic effects alongside acoustic instruments such as the caja vidalera, an Argentinian drum, and the charango, a Bolivian guitar. Where Parra’s original work is gut-wrenching in its message and impact, Rei’s interpretation of the same is healing and redemptive. It’s a masterful piece of musical alchemy.
She also devotes two of the evenings to her work with composer John Zorn, whose writing for singers tends toward the soaring: On April 27 Rei will reprise songs from the repertoire of the a cappella group Mycale, which Zorn assembled in 2010 to perform on his avante-garde work The Book of Angels. (In 2015 Israeli singer Ayelet Rose Gottlieb, Moroccan singer Malika Zarra, and American singer Basya Schecter joined Rei to record Zorn’s many-layered vocal composition, Gomory: The Book of Angels, Vol. 25, for his label Tzadik Records. Gottlieb and Zarra will perform with Rei at The Stone.) Then on April 28 Rei will sing from Zorn’s Masada Book 3: Book Beriah, a series of compositions based on Jewish musical traditions and to which Rei contributed original lyrics. In its entirety this Zorn project fills 11 discs, the first of which is Keter, with Rei on fiery vocals and J.C. Maillard on eight-string bass. (Zorn himself will be performing from the Masada project at Symphony Space on April 12.)
The title track of singer-songwriter Kat Edmonson’s new album Old Fashioned Girl (Spinnerette) first gained traction earlier this year when NPR profiled the original on its show Songs We Love. Musically the tune evokes a Songbook standard, tinkling piano accompaniment and all, but lyrically it is set solidly in a technology-saturated 2018. This track is only one of many ruefully humorous numbers on the recording, from “Sparkle And Shine,” a slow swing track orchestrated like a dance number in an MGM film, to “Not My Time,” a yuke-and-voice melody about near-brushes with destiny. This is Edmonson’s signature, to keep it light—her voice, the lyrics, the approach to the melody—even when she’s singing about loss. On “Goodbye Bruce,” for instance, she warbles a short, lullaby-like vocalese against a simple piano melody, closing the tune with a 13-word final adieu to a friend—heart-breaking, given the levity against which the lyrics play. Edmonson doesn’t return to New York until May 4 with a gig at Poisson Rouge, but the album releases officially on April 27.
Like Edmonson, drummer-cum-singer-songwriter Dave Tull approaches songwriting with humor and technology with wariness. Also like Edmonson, his music recalls an earlier time, when big band horn players blazed through syncopated arrangements and singers scatted with impeccable timing (a big general thank you to drummers who scat). On his latest release, texting and driving (s/p) Tull shows off his agility with a witty lyric and a breakneck tempo; as a crooner he exudes a bonhomie so appealing that the listener might not notice how sophisticated his chops are. On this release two notable singing phenoms put in appearances: Manhattan Transfer’s Cheryl Bentyne on “The Date,” a languid, laugh-out-loud duet that offers a much-needed antidote to the lyrics in “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and Inga Swearingen on “The Moment,” which features close harmonies, soft strings, and a peek into the endearing musings of a man on the brink of romance.
Rising star gigs this month: Paul Jost makes his JALC debut as a guest of vibes player Joe Locke on April 27-28; on the heels of her regular gig at 55 Bar on April 13 Tessa Souter plays two sets at Mezzrow April 17; and trumpeter-singer Bria Skonberg starts the month at Greenwich House Music School’s NY Hot Jazz Camp April 2-8 and finishes it at Joe’s Pub on April 25.