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Jazz Vocalist Allegra Levy To Visit Sally's


Vocalist Allegra Levy celebrates the release of her debut album, "Lonely City," at Black-Eyed Sally's in Hartford on Saturday, Nov. 29, backed by pianist Seán McCluskey, guitarist Sean Clapis, bassist Timothy Norton, and drummer Matt Rousseau.

Levy, 24, a Hall High School and New England Conservatory grad who's currently wrapping a seven-month residency at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong, wrote the music and lyrics to all 11 tracks, which she recorded with trumpeter/composer John McNeil (her mentor at NEC) and some fantastic players: drummer Richie Barshay (another Hall grad), bassist Jorge Roeder, tenor saxophonist Adam Kolker, guitarist Steve Cardenes, trumpeter John Bailey, pianist Carmen Staaf (who's also responsible for the string arrangements, played here by the Mivos String Quartet) and violinist Mark Feldman.

Levy's tunes are harmonically complex but accessible, richly layered, with the emphasis squarely on melody. Things that happened to Levy personally shape her lyrics, but they're normalized into universal experiences; "You torment me so my dear," she sings in the preamble of "Clear-Eyed Tango" (a song Levy said was about a sexual assault), "though it was long ago, my dear / I find your face is haunting me / a strange and chilling memory / and now it's time you set me free." The song becomes jaunty — probably more like menacing, once you know the backstory — with a tension-filled solo from Feldman and accordion work from Staaf, who also provided the arrangement.

"I'm Not Okay" is Levy's most lowdown moment, with an unsettled unison trumpet/tenor line, tense chords and a pulse that's slow to emerge: "I'm not okay, and I never will be," she sings, calling to be left alone, "I'm not okay, and that's okay with me / Don't be a fool and try to save me / I'd rather sit and live the blues god gave me." After a second verse, Levy gets her wish: to be left alone — for a few choruses, anyway — as Adam Kolker solos. Other songs — like the title track, about Levy's time in New York, and the lovely "Everything Green" — show an indebtedness to Joni Mitchell's nimble jazz-rock albums of the 1970s, down to suspended chords, unexpected forms and a subtle, cigarette-smoke patina. Levy's music is sophisticated, worldly and swinging, with a wide range of tonal colors and moods not unlike Portland's Pink Martini. Levy's voice is one we should expect to hear from for a long time.

ALLEGRA LEVY performs on Saturday, Nov. 29, at Black-eyed Sally's in Hartford. Showtime is 8:30 p.m. Information:

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