Concert Review: SAMARA JOY & HER BAND (Town Hall, NYC)

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by Kevin Vavasseur on June 23, 2024

in Concerts / Events,Music,Theater-New York


Is there such a thing as an accessible diva? An earthbound angel? A human being not made of flesh and blood but solely of musical tones and vibrations? If such other-worldly entities exist, then three-time Grammy winner Samara Joy must qualify as at least one if not all. The twenty-four year old jazz vocalist with a voice whose power, range, clarity, precision, depth and expressiveness harkens to someone decades her senior; delivered a knockout, ninety-minute set at her first engagement at New York City’s famed music venue The Town Hall (she makes her Carnegie Hall debut next April).

Samara Joy

This hometown girl (from the boogie-down Bronx and a very musical family) was clearly thrilled to play for her hometown audience at such a hallowed space. Offering an eclectic program of newly arranged standards, brand new compositions and previously instrumental pieces with newly added lyrics (some written by Ms. Joy herself) this super-tight set, performed by Ms. Joy and a superb seven piece band, was thrilling, moving and, frankly, awe-inspiring. Offering compositions by Charlie Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Billie Holiday, Betty Carter and others, including crowd favorite “Sweet Pumpkin” by Ronnell Bright – Samara Joy was a smash.

David Mason (alto sax), Kendric McCallister (tenor sax), Jason Charos (trumpet),
Donovan Austin (trombone), Connor Rohrer (piano), Paul Sikivie (bass,), Evan Sherman (drums)
Kendric McCallister (tenor sax), Jason Charos (trumpet)

Of almost immediate notice, considering her meteoric rise in the jazz world, is how seemingly unaffected Ms. Joy is by her current circumstances. Sure, she certainly owns her talents and gifts and the continual effort she makes to excel in her craft. Yet she still occurs as a charming, funny, honest, young woman still getting a kick out of the incredible ride she’s on. And the juxtaposition of this seemingly sweet and engaging young songstress against her monumental talent makes her even more endearing when onstage. For instance, apologizing to anyone in the audience who speaks Portuguese before launching into a rousing rendition of “No More Blues” (“Dhega De Saudade”) that she sings (beautifully) in Portuguese and English. Adorable.

 Connor Rohrer, Samara Joy

And more than just adorable, there’s an incredible generosity that emanates from Ms. Joy as evidenced by the amount of stage time she gives to spotlight her musicians. This is not a singer backed by a seven piece band but eight artists working together to create some truly wonderful musical exchanges. Of course, her musicians are respectively as fabulous as she is with David Mason (alto sax), Kendrick McCallister (tenor sax), Jason Charos (trumpet),  Donovan Austin (trombone), Connor Rohrer (piano), Paul Sikivie (bass) and Evan Sherman (drums). Yet the sense of unity and teamwork these performers exhibit is both appealing and undeniable. Also, McCallister, Charos, Mason and Austin delivered innovative and refreshing new arrangements for some of the show’s numbers.

Jason Charos (trumpet), David Mason (alto sax), Kendric McCallister (tenor sax)
Donovan Austin (trombone), Jason Charos (trumpet)

Whether scatting, improvising or interpreting a lyric, Ms. Joy’s voice is a marvel. A miracle of modulation that can move from the most delicate high note to the richest low note in an instant, she stuns with the clarity and ease of her instrument. The thought that kept coming to mind was “…the music of the spheres”. As if Ms. Joy was not so much singing as channeling the celestial music of the universe through her own physicality.

David Mason (alto sax), Kendric McCcallister (tenor sax), Jason Charos (trumpet),
Donavan Austin (trombone), Connor Rohrer (piano), Paul Sikivie (bass,), Evan Sherman (drums)

And while she can perform vocal gymnastics on an Olympic level, such routines were never done from a place of simply showing off. Rather, this impressive musicianship was always connected to her need to express, as the singer maintains a warmth and humanity within all of her sounds. Top that off with her winning personality and here’s hoping Samara Joy has lots of shelf space for many years’ worth of future acknowledgements. She’s gonna need it.

photos of Samara Joy at The Town Hall, June 21, 2024 by Sachyn Mital

Samara Joy and her Band
The Town Hall in NYC
reviewed on June 21, 2024
more info @ Samara Joy


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