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Becca Stevens: Wonderbloom (GroundUP)

A review of the singer/songwriter's latest album

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Becca Stevens, Wonderbloom
The cover of Wonderbloom by Becca Stevens

Deeply informed by jazz but unbounded by idiomatic boundaries, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Becca Stevens is an x-factor artist who always seems to take music in unexpected directions, whether leading a project or collaborating on someone else’s vision. Over the past 12 years or so she’s cut a brilliant swath across several scenes, contributing to recordings by Taylor Eigsti and Brad Mehldau, Snarky Puppy, Travis Sullivan’s Bjorkestra, and Billy Childs’ Laura Nyro project, to name just a few who’ve availed themselves of her singular talents. More recently she’s been touring and recording with the resurgent David Crosby in his Lighthouse Band, while creating an ever more detailed body of work as a singer/songwriter.

A collection of 14 concise songs that rarely surpass four minutes in length, Wonderbloom expands on themes she explored on 2017’s Regina while bursting into a multitude of new directions, particularly when it comes to rhythmic production. Working with an expansive cast of some 40 musicians, including a large contingent from the Snarky Puppy kennel, Wonderbloom is a densely packed candy store brimming with barely contained emotions, melodic hooks, and sumptuously detailed sonic settings. Stevens’ voice can turn from breathy and ethereal to conversational to cutting and crystalline in the space of a syllable, and these songs explore her full palette.

Working closely with co-producer Nic Hard, a studio wizard, she doesn’t shy away from evoking her musical influences. With its deliciously slinky keyboard line “I Wish” sounds like a Prince outtake circa Around the World in a Day, while “Good Stuff” is a lushly appointed, aspirational women-beat-the-odds anthem set to a stuttering beat. The spirit of Kate Bush infuses many of the tracks, but Wonderbloom is clearly the work of one very fertile mind, even as Stevens has welcomed a terrific crew of collaborators into her garden.

Preview or download Wonderbloom on Amazon!

Andrew Gilbert

Andrew Gilbert is a Berkeley-based freelancer who has written about arts and culture since 1989 for numerous publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, East Bay Express, Berkeleyside, and KQED’s California Report. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he experienced a series of mind-blowing epiphanies listening to jazz masters at Kuumbwa Jazz Center in the late 1980s, performances he remembers more vividly than the gigs he saw last month.