Release date 2020
Allegra Levy is a young singer who has made a reputation for herself through her witty songwriting and performing. She has sung a lot of her own songs on previous releases but on this one, she changes things slightly by writing her own lyrics to the music of trumpet player John McNeil.
McNeil was Levy's mentor at the New England Conservatory and she complements his slightly off-balance tunes with lyrics that range from the dark and sardonic to the emotional and poetic. Levy's voice flows over the twists and turns of McNeil's melodies with the flexible ease of an Annie Ross or Nancy King. She delivers her acid putdowns of a dance partner on "Strictly Ballroom" and some unidentified scoundrel on "C.J." with a carefree breeziness that belies the sting in her words. In contrast to that, she is very good at conjuring quieter moods on other songs. She conveys innocent wistfulness on "Dover Beach" and "Ukulele Tune" and quiet sensuality of "Zephyr" and "Livin' Small." The music becomes especially dreamy on the last song when Levy's singing mixes with the trumpet of John McNeil himself in one of his three guest appearances on the CD.
Outside of McNeil's cameos and an appearance by Pierre Dorge playing ukulele on "Ukulele Tune," the instrumental work is all done by three female musicians. Carmen Staaf plays piano, Carmen Rothwell is on bass and Colleen Clark plays drums. Their work subtly complements the understated emotions and cunning humor in Levy's singing. The three come off strongest on "Lose My Number" itself. They go through abrupt tempo changes, as Levy tells off another man who can't take a hint, her voice suddenly moving between fast and slow. When Levy breaks into giddy scatting, the band flies excitedly alongside her, disintegrating into abstraction beside her flippant coos, before coming back together for a last chorus.
This CD is a sly little romp that sways between dark sarcasm and intimate romance, bringing the writing of John McNeil and the singing of Allegra Levy together into an enjoyable package.
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