|Not just another singer
by Joyce Corbett October 2006
Sofia Koutsovitis is one very interesting musician. She studied renaissance, baroque, classical and avant-garde music at the conservatory in her native Argentina and earned her Masters degree in the jazz program at the New England Conservatory studying with Danilo Perez and Steve Lacy among others. She has played with Afro-peruvian, Columbian, and avant-garde musicians in New York City where she now lives and she brings all of this experience, and I do mean all of it, to her début CD, Ojalá (Hope). She and the rest of her octet, with two guest percussionists on some tracks and a guest soprano saxophonist on another, deftly weave styles and traditions, sometimes integrating the various elements, sometimes flowing through one to another. There are many South American rhythms Argentinean zamba, gato, much less tango than one might expect, chacarera, Afro-Peruvian festejo and others but the CD overall exhibits a definite jazz sensibility and a spirit of exploration, even experimentation.
Sofia Koutsovitis has a clear voice with just a hint of vibrato here and there and she is clearly in control of that beautiful instrument, whether slowly sliding down a semi-tone; springing cat-like up a seventh, or jumping an octave; spinning off rapid-fire rhythmic lines with delicacy and precision; or savouring a note before bending it. She is an outstanding scat-singer as you can hear right off the top in the title tune Ojalá (by Cuban trovador Silvio Rodriguez), where she also interweaves lines with saxophones and trumpet illustrating another of her strong cards: her ability to blend and harmonize with horns and reeds. The voice and saxophone introduction to Silence 1 which returns as the coda of Silence 2 (her own compositions) employs this ability to great effect. In Dança da solidao (by Rio de Janeiro's Paulinho Da Viola), where she starts out harmonizing with the soprano saxophone, we also get to hear her pure voice acapella before the rhythm section comes in.
As well as blending genres and musical traditions, this CD blends poetry, rhythm and music, reminding us that each of these share essential elements. El Suicida, the Jorge Luis Borges poem set to music, is one of the most expressionistic pieces on the CD. As much a sound poem as a poem of words, clarinet and voice intrigue the listener with eerie ethereal harmony, lone bass carries us further, the pianist strikes heavy dissonant chords as a clock would strike the hour and percussion panics. We are carried to another realm.
Sofia Koutsovitis CD Ojalá is full of interesting twists, turns, and delights, not the least of which is her version of the jazz standard You Dont Know What Love Is, the only jazz standard on the CD. Listening to the introduction played on the quintessential Afro-Peruvian percussion instruments of cajon and quijada de burro (donkeys jaw), the smoothly sung lyrics you dont know what love is are the last thing you would expect to hear glide in. With all the Afro-Peruvian influence present on this CD, this is the only track on which the quijada is played. That speaks to the spirit of this unique creative artist.
Ojalá is a beautiful and unusual CD. When you have finished listening to it, you will know that Sofia Koutsovitis is far from being 'just another singer'.
Sofia Koutsovitis vocals
Jason Palmer trumpet
Adam Schneit alto saxophone and clarinet
Daniel Blake tenor and soprano saxophones
Leo Genovese piano, melodica and bombo
Jorge Roeder bass
Richie Barshay drums, cajon, quijada de burro, cow bell
Jorge Perez Albela cajon, congas, djembe and other hand percussion
Jamey Haddad mazar, crickets and shakers, agogo, surdo, tambourine and other hand percussion
Reynaldo de Jesus congas, guiro, timbale bells set
Felipe Salles soprano saxophone