REVIEW: Becca Stevens Band at the 2016 Cheltenham Jazz Festival

Becca Stevens Band

Becca Stevens Band
(Jazz Arena, Cheltenham, 1st May 2016. Review by Peter Jones)

She’s worked with José James, the New West Guitar Group and Snarky Puppy. At the same time, after fifteen years with her own band, this singer, songwriter, guitarist, player of ukulele, charango and doubtless many other instruments is finally attracting attention in her own right.

For listeners unfamiliar with Becca Stevens, the closest comparison is perhaps with Joni Mitchell. Her voice inhabits that same high, pure register, with an attractive, vulnerable, folksy tremor. Likewise her songwriting is essentially folk, pop and rock but with a certain jazz sensibility: the tunes are relatively complex, nearly all of them involving vocal harmonies with bassist Chris Tordini. The only instrumental solo of the whole gig came at the end, courtesy of pianist (and singer) Oli Rockberger; otherwise Stevens sang every song straight through. So you could say it’s the kind of folk-rock that jazz fans would like.

Stevens has an endearingly informal manner. She halts one song after admitting that she’s out of tune, and it’s being played too fast.

Beginning with a song called Tillery, for which she plays a Fender Strat with a capo, she switches next to ukulele, then back to the Strat for No Miracles, and thence to I Asked, a particularly fine emotional love song she performed recently with the Swedish group Väsen and Snarky Puppy on their Family Dinner Volume Two album (see video link below). In this case her instrument of choice is the charango, an Andean mandolin. Another tune, The Muse, was composed with lyrics by the venerable David Crosby, and featured some unexpected John Bonham-style drumming from Jordan Perlson.

Becca Stevens’s material is never less than sweet and melodic, always with enough quirk to keep it interesting, and her lyrics are thoughtful and intelligent.

Becca Stevens will be at Rich Mix as part of the Serious Space Festival on May 17th, and at the Globe Theatre on July 18th

Link: I Asked - with Snarky Puppy on video
Becca Stevens: 2014 interview by Nicky Schrire
Review from 2013
Review of Becca Stevens at Revoice!, from 2012
Becca Stevens: 2012 Interview by Rosalie Genay

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