Allegra Levy: Lonely City

Discovering a fresh, dynamic jazz voice is always a delight. When the singer proves an equally gifted songwriter, the pleasure is squared. Allegra Levy is one such double-barreled talent. The recent New England Conservatory grad, a crystalline alto with a sultry layer of Chris Connor-esque smoke, made her recording debut while still in her teens, teaming with guitarist Elden Kelly to shape 2008’s A New Face.

While mightily promising, that mix of covers and originals clearly suggested Levy needed more ripening.

And blossom she has. Lonely City comprises 11 Levy originals, including two selections from the earlier album that have been impressively revitalized. Working with a tight quintet featuring standout saxophonist Adam Kolker, Levy mirrors the dexterity of Peggy Lee, able to both swing like mad (most notably on the galloping “I Don’t Want to Be in Love”) and snuggle tenderly inside a ballad. Like Lee, she can also be deliciously coy and coltish, as fetchingly demonstrated in the opening “Anxiety,” sort of an insouciant “Black Coffee.”

Lee was, of course, a superb tunesmith. Levy also excels as a songwriter, particularly as a lyricist. Her wordplay occasionally approaches the canniness of Cole Porter, and as a storyteller she variously aspires to the prowess of Harold Arlen, Carolyn Leigh and Stephen Sondheim. She is, unquestionably, one to watch.

Originally Published