Friday, June 2, 2017

Coming Home Again

This Saturday June 3, vocalist, lyricist, and composer Allegra Levy performs at 8 p.m. in the Polish National Home, 60 Charter Oak Avenue/Pulaski Plaza, in Hartford. The West Hartford native is celebrating the release of her second album, "Cities Between Us" (Steeplechase Records), a delightful album that finds the vocalist fronting a ensemble that features Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Stephen Riley (tenor saxophone), Carmen Staff (piano), Jay Anderson (bass) and Billy Drummond (drums).

I spoke with Ms. Levy around the time (late 2014) of the release of her Steeplechase debut.  She was living and working in Hong Kong China. That nearly year-long residency was her "dues-paying" gig (she now lives in New York City) and one can hear in the songs she wrote for the new album.  Her mentor at The New England Conservatory, where she studied before going overseas, was trumpeter John McNeil, who has worked with a number of fine musicians and vocalists - it's clear from the start that Ms. Levy knows what she wants from her musicians and herself, setting challenges such as writing lyrics to the songs by Duke Jordan ("Lullaby of the Orient") and Dexter Gordon ("Soy Califa") and deciding that the majority of the material are original pieces. Also, many of the songs stretch out so that not only are the melodies well-constructed but also the solos have time to develop.  The lyrics speak of her separation from her friends, family, and lover and are extremely mature for someone who is but 27 years-old.  Despite the sadness inherent in the much of her lyrics, the music has various moods ("Misery Makes the Music" is a pleasing tango while the delightful "Soy Califa" is a hard-bop delight).

Ms. Staaf will be on piano for the Hartford concert along with West Hartford native Tim Norton (bass) and former West Hartford residents Richie Barshay (drums) and Joel Frahm (tenor saxophone) both of whom graduated from Hall High School (as did Ms. Levy).  It should be a delight to hear the vocalist working with Mr. Frahm as he is one of the best and sensitive accompanist a singer would ever want.

For ticket information, click on To learn more about Ms. Levy, go to

Here's the title track recorded live at the CD release show in New York City:

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