Samara Joy is 21, and two years ago she won the Sarah Vaughan international jazz vocal competition. She grew up in a gospel-singing family in New York, and it was college friends who first introduced her to the great jazz singers such as Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, along with their vast repertoire of classic American song. Joy fell for it all, and seems instinctively to have grasped the main features of the singing style – rhythmic freedom, clear diction, avoidance of mannerisms etc.
Her approach is simple but beautifully poised, and when she does take off on an improvised passage or coda, the trickiest notes present no problem. The album cover lists 12 tracks, but there are actually 13, and that last one, Sophisticated Lady, is the best of the lot for me – delicately phrased and full of feeling. The accompaniment is by a trio led by Pasquale Grasso, a guitarist with the most phenomenal technique and an endless flow of ideas. It’s impressive, if a bit much at times for the job in hand. So, two young artists keeping a classic style alive with love, understanding and, in Grasso’s case, bravura.