Music-savvy New Yorkers have been aware of Camila Meza for a while now. Seven years have passed since the Chilean vocalist and guitarist, then just 22, migrated to the Big Apple. Three previous albums focused on American and Latin standards, plus wider forays into works by Björk, Joni Mitchell and Led Zeppelin. Traces is a far more personal project centered on her own compositions-six of 10 tracks are originals. As she explains in the liner notes, she is interested here in “tracing” a path toward inner truths, guided solely by her intuition. It is a mesmerizing trip. Joining her are keyboardist Shai Maestro, bassist Matt Penman, drummer Kendrick Scott, percussionist Bashiri Johnson and cellist Jody Redhage.
Influences of Meza’s earliest guitar heroes-Wes Montgomery, George Benson-are evident in her fluid, sparkling style. Vocally she straddles the line between pop and jazz, her sound bright and pure. Writing and performing in Spanish and English, her lyrics are similarly lucent, and she melds seamlessly with guest Sachal Vasandani on the bittersweet “Away.” Again she mines rich South American veins-the urgent environmental plea “Amazon Farewell,” from Brazil’s Djavan, and gossamer “Luchín,” from Chile’s courageously outspoken Víctor Jara, assassinated in 1973. She adds a gliding, sun-dappled treatment of Stephen Sondheim’s “Green Finch and Linnet Bird,” from Sweeney Todd, and an enchanting rendition of Jon Brion’s “Little Person,” closely mirroring Deanna Storey’s version from Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York.