Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Alyssa Giammaria: “In Time” (2023) CD Review

Alyssa Giammaria is a jazz singer and composer based in Toronto. She released her first album, Moments, in late 2021, featuring original compositions. That release has been called an EP, but it’s twenty-eight minutes in length, long enough to be considered an LP (some of the early U.S. Beatles releases were shorter). She has now followed that with In Time, which also features all original material, some of it written several years ago and some of it more recently. Joining her on this release are Steven Noronha on piano, Josh Sparks on guitar, PT Sandberg on bass, and Aidan McConnell on drums. Aoife Louise-Doyle and Stephanie Sloss provide backing vocals on a few tracks.

The album opens with “The Only Part,” which begins with a solid beat. When Alyssa Giammaria comes in, the song has something of a singer/songwriter vibe, at least for a few moments. “At the start, I’m always what you’d like for me to be/And soon enough I’ll hate all my mistakes/And they’ll be the only part you see.” As the song progresses, the guitar work stands out, acting like a second voice. There is also a really nice bass lead approximately halfway through. And then Steven Noronha is able to get a bit loose on the keys, adding more energy to the track. That’s followed by “Dream Life,” which has a sweeter, more relaxed vibe as it begins. As Alyssa Giammaria mentions “gentle lullabies” in the lyrics, there is that sense about it. Yet there is also energy to her delivery, and soon she gives us some light and pretty vocal riffing. As that continues, there is something youthful and playful about it, like she is creating a story, even a land, with her voice, not needing words. And we want to enter this land she’s creating. Perhaps if we close our eyes and let the music take us, we can. This track also contains a wonderful section where the bass and guitar interact, and the piece grows from there, the guitar leading to some interesting heights. “Enchanted by the quiet sigh of wonder.” Her vocal riffing toward the end has more power, feels more pointed, driving us out of the dream.

“Conversation” begins with Alyssa Giamarria’s vocals. “I’ll let you down/You won’t hear a thing that I meant to say.” The track soon develops a delightfully catchy groove, and there are some pop influences heard. It’s a totally enjoyable number. That groove is the focus for me, that delicious beat, but there is also some lovely guitar work. And then in the middle, Alyssa allows her voice to drift sweetly over us, seeing where her thoughts might take her, and soothing us in the process. The groove isn’t as pronounced in that section. I love how the piano takes over, following her lead and taking that dreamy aspect and giving it a more solid expression. This is one of my personal favorite tracks. That’s followed by the title track, “In Time.” This one grabs me from its opening moments when she sings the word “Freedom” over some beautiful work on piano. I love the way her voice rises from the mists. This is a fantastic and compelling piece, creating its own vivid atmosphere. “But I won’t let myself be swept away.” It grows from there, and is a track that has us excited to see where it will go. Listen to the way that piano begins to rumble in the second half, becoming exciting. And Alyssa’s voice bursts in, again changing the course of things. “But I won’t let myself be swept away,” she tells us again. This is another of the disc’s highlights.

At the beginning of “What Are The Words,” she sings “I don’t know what else I could say to make you go on and forget.” What an interesting delivery of that first line, like practicing a scale. Then she gives a pretty, even delicate delivery of the next line, “The rest is gone for now.” And again, she has grabbed us within the opening moments of the song. It’s an unusual piece. “Nothing left to lose/To hold/To prove.” She employs interesting repetition of lines and phrases. And then suddenly we are in a lively and exciting and insistent jam, the drums racing. “Mend” has a sweeter, gentler sound as it begins, with a more intimate feel to her vocal delivery. “This time I make it out/I don’t regret it/I’ll carve the words out loud.” This track makes good use of the backing vocals. The line “I almost got it right” leads to a wonderful lead on piano. There is something of a late-night vibe to it, when time almost ceases to matter. The bass then sets “For Now” in motion, and there is a strong sense of movement from those first moments, of things swirling around us, as we try to keep some calm in our center. It slows down as she sings, “It all goes away.” The tension builds again, and that piano lead gets wonderfully wild. Things relax again for the bass lead. The musicians take us on an excellent journey during the course of this track.

CD Track List

  1. The Only Part
  2. Dream Life
  3. Conversations
  4. In Time
  5. What Are The Words
  6. Mend
  7. For Now

In Time was released on September 8, 2023.

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