Leah Souza and the Leah Souza Trio, with special guest Johnny Souza
Ryles, 212 Hampshire Street, Cambridge, MA
Leah Souza’s dream to break into the jazz scene may or may not happen but it won’t be from lack of support. The trio that played behind her last night at Ryles in Cambridge would have been at home sitting in with a singer with far greater name recognition. Pianist Michael Shea and bassist David Landoni were the chief instigators in the evening’s creations. Once Souza established the tempo and sang her first stanzas, this little duet went to town exchanging improvised riffs that had them grinning and the audience applauding.
“We don’t have formal arrangements for the songs,” drummer Rick Klane was overheard saying to a patron after the first set. “Michael gets an idea going and he and Dave take it on after that. I go along for the ride and fill in on my own.” The playing behind Souza was spirited and tight.
The other Souza on the stage, special guest Johnny Souza, happened to be Leah’s dad - and does have name recognition. The Chet Baker-smooth trumpeter has been a fixture on the regional music scene for years and sat in on several of his daughter’s songs.
Leah Souza’s been listening to music since she was a kid in Plymouth, MA. “I started singing pop music as a teenager. My dad introduced me to jazz a few years ago and I got hooked.”
The dark haired 24-year-old has a dusky mezzo-alto voice that can shift into a pleasing upper register. It’s no surprise that she occasionally grooves on the scat style of her mentor, veteran Rebecca Parris, Souza’s phrasing, as evidenced by her renditions of first set standards of “Autumn Leaves”, “Nearness Of You”, “September In The Rain”, “Night And Day”, and “Summertime”, was pleasingly fresh.
Souza’s singing meshed seamlessly with the elegant stylings of her dad’s trumpet. One of the night’s highlights was their sweet vocal duet of Horace Silver’s “Song For My Father” backed up by Johnny Souza’s velvety trumpet soloing.
The young songstress knows what she wants. “I don’t have a day job. I want to have a career in music. I really like Kurt Elling. Others who’ve influenced me are Diana Krall, Natalie Cole, Frank Sinatra, and Dianne Reeves,” she said. Singing professionally for nearly four years, she was at ease fronting a band. This was her third performance at Ryles.
While she’s clearly in tune with her band, Souza often seemed to teeter off pitch as she shifted between notes in her phrasing. If she can overcome this distraction, Leah Souza wont be scanning advertisements for a day job anytime soon.
For more about her, see www.leahsouza.com