The most recent winner of the Grammy award for best new artist, jazz singer Samara Joy, was on stage in Montreal on Sunday evening. At the Monument-National, it brought together spectators of all generations.
There is no age to love jazz. There is no age either to sing it, modernize it and celebrate it. Sunday evening, as part of the 43rd Jazz Festival, demonstrated that the music of Samara Joy is unifying, that it knows no borders. Thanks to an artist like her, new ears are turning to jazz, while those who already appreciate it have the opportunity to discover one of the young voices of the genre. The audience in the hall on Saint-Laurent Boulevard included a few teenagers, many young adults and just as many older spectators.
Accompanied by three fabulous young musicians on piano (Luther Allison), double bass (Felix Moseholm) and drums (Evan Sherman), Samara Joy arrived on the stage of the Monument-National in force, demonstrating from her first song (This Is the Moment, by Betty Grable) the power of her voice. In her orange satin dress, without being extravagant in terms of her stage presence, she was immediately dazzling.
At only 23 years old, Samara Joy has turned many eyes in her direction. Listening to her album allows you to fully understand what is special about her: a captivating voice and interpretation. Her live performance better illustrates what makes her remarkable. It embodies the perfect encounter between classic and modernity.
This voice so young carries with it so much maturity and experience that we almost forget that the artist is just beginning. Of course, she sang all her life, you can see it, you can hear it. She is part of this generation that jazz can count on to keep it alive and thriving.
And for proof: Samara Joy is only the second jazz musician to receive the Grammy award for best new artist. Earlier this year, she also received Best Jazz Vocal Album for her second album, Linger Awhile.
Samara Joy has, quite simply, one of the most beautiful voices we have had the chance to hear in concert.
The Bronx singer has been described (by director Regina King) as “a young woman who makes it seem like both Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald live inside her body.”
His register knows no bounds. His delivery is impeccable. Her voice carries with force while preserving a delightful delicacy. She is right, in every way, especially in the emotion she conveys. “We’re having fun being here and I hope it shows,” she said during the evening. The answer is yes, absolutely.
When she launched into the interpretation of a song she learned in Portuguese, Chega de Saudade, a superb bossa nova, her voice became honeyed, coated us. She continued the song in English (the No More Blues version), and the moment ended with almost indescribable vocal prowess, reaching highs and then lows that testified in a single breath to the breadth of her vocal range. .
This was followed by the piece Stardust, by Bing Crosby, which the public recognized from the first notes. His interpretation, at first simple piano-voice, brought us to tears, like a few other times in the evening. Amazed exclamations from the public punctuated the whole evening.
Nostalgia, then, allowed him to interpret his own words, on a bebop melody by Fats Navarro. The tempo remained high for Tight, by Betty Carter, which she dedicated to the singles in the room. A song that she took the liberty of updating to suit the times a little better.
In addition to being a great performer, Samara Joy is, quite simply, an entertainer. The young artist expressed her gratitude for this presence at one of her “favorite festivals in the world”, in Montreal. She interacted with her audience often, she is fun and friendly. “I’m going to tell you how it all happened to me, even if I don’t know exactly how it all happened,” the singer said, before describing the previous years, which led her to receive two “little golden gramophones”. She then sang the title track of this Grammy-winning album.
A stunning rendition of a mix of Lately, by Stevie Wonder, and Guess Who I Saw Today, by Nancy Wilson, earned her a standing ovation.
Just Squeeze Me (But Please Don’t Tease Me), by Duke Ellington, then an encore leading to Sweet Pumpkin, and a second encore (the first of her career!) for which she performed Beware My Heart (by Betty Carter) concluded the evening superbly.
If many were surprised by her victory in the category of best new artist (we barely knew her and were surprised ourselves at the time), this hour and a half in the company of Samara Joy was enough for us persuade that this honor was more than deserved.
The Jazz Festival, even if it puts forward a panoply of genres, ensures that the style of music that gives it its name has its place of honor. Artists like Samara Joy are proof that the sustainability of jazz is assured.