Famous singer Kristen Lee Sergeant will wow the crowd at Joe’s Pub tonight. Last month, the New York-based artist unveiled her most ambitious project to date with Falling, her wide-ranging, jazz-leaning third album inspired by the multidimensional concept of falling.
The album, which was chosen as one of the best new releases of the month by Jazz at Lincoln Center, received a multitude of positive reviews; Michael C. Bailey of All About Jazz called Falling’s performances “solid and definitive” with “carefully considered and executed arrangements”, while Jim Hynes of Making A Scene said the album “is one of the most original vocals you’ll ever hear, imbued with a lasting emotional impact that lingers long after the final notes have been played and sung.” Tonight, audiences can experience the magic first-hand at the official launch party at Joe’s Pub.
GRAMMY-winning saxophonist Ted Nash joins Sergeant, along with pianist Jeb Patton, bassist Hannah Marks, drummer Jay Sawyer and cellist Jody Redhage Ferber. The show starts at 7:00 p.m. and doors open at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased here or at the door.
Based in New York, her first and second releases (Inside Out and Smolder) received “Editor’s Choice” designations from DownBeat Magazine and she was praised for “moments of engaging drama, which she seductively glides in a note with a quasi-whisper, delivering a breathless revelation or intoning a lyric with full-throated musculature”. This variety of musical colors derives from Sergeant’s rich mosaic of influences that spans artists (Dianne Reeves, Judy Garland, Joni Mitchell and Fiona Apple) and art forms (jazz, theater, opera and pop 1970s).
Falling, his third studio album, sees a shift in direction as Sergeant revisits his formative sense for musical drama. A totally immersive experience, Falling is a full-bodied concept album that takes listeners on an extraordinary musical journey, hitting many emotional high points along the way. Informed by the precarious times we find ourselves in, but never bogged down by it, Sergeant’s Last is an exploration of the sentiment, condition and even myth surrounding the act and severity of the “fall”.
The aptly titled “Let’s Fall” sets the scene, as the Sergeant falls headfirst into a dark nightscape full of nocturnal thrills. It shines through vaudevillian chansonnery and spiky quintet textures, where Patton comes across as a stellar soloist. The Sergeant’s natural penchant for storytelling is apparent in the mythical cathartic journey of “Sisyphus”, where she tells the age-old story of “pushing that rock up that hill”. The perpetual resistance is finally overcome by a sense of acceptance, as the melody settles into a dance-like, rhythmic feel that carries the musicians higher and higher.
The sergeant composed “Infinity Blues” after meeting an astronaut, and this piece begins its flight with Nash’s sought-after soprano solo. “The swing doesn’t have to be retro,” notes the sergeant. She sings “I’ve got the infinity blues / I don’t want no weight in my shoes”, embodying the song’s essential existential drift through life.
“Chiaroscuro” is an allusion to Renaissance artistry captured in music, with well-crafted counterpoint featuring strongly lit moments that wax and wane throughout. Then, the ingenuity of Sergeant the Lyricist comes to the fore as “Honey” extracts a flow of rich, gooey imagery over classic blues, where bassist Hannah Marks really spells it out.
Stronger images emerge from the set on the floating “Birdsong”, as the sergeant warns us of the dangers of settling for illusory comfort when freedom is still an option. “The price isn’t worth the game,” the sergeant reflects on “Better Off,” but it’s an altogether more personal affair, one that’s fleetingly brief but full of lingering feelings. “Am I not naked enough for you?” she sings, ostensibly.
Myths and legends abound on this record – next is the bold and dramatic ‘Orpheus’. What could Hades look like? Drummer Jay Sawyer gives us an answer of sorts, gliding through triple time in a nodding pocket surrounded by Greek chorus-style vocal arrangements. “Autumn Nocturne” then takes it down a notch in a cool and stylish presentation by Sergeant the Vocal Technician. The energetic duration of “Black Magic” is fueled by the belligerent trades and vaults of Nash and the sergeant in a messy surrender.
With elements of jazz, musical theatre, chamber music and 1970s pop dotting his vast musical landscape, Sergeant paints a vivid musical portrait that is easy to get lost in. “From Greek myths to outer space, I hope to take listeners on an enriching experience and thoughtful journey in sound,” Sergeant recalls. “And I become their Virgil, stumbling past them.”