New York based vocalist Somi was invited in May 2019 by the Frankfurt Radio Big Band as special guest for a radio broadcast from Frankfurt’s Alte Oper. The material presented on this date was arranged and conducted by John Beasley and also featured Somi’s longtime collaborators Hervé Samb (guitar) and Toru Dodo (piano).
At the time of the recording, there was no intention to release the material, however, when she listened back to the concert during lockdown she found that it “comforted me in a deeply visceral way”. She decided that the music needs to be released and it’s a good thing that she did, earlier this week the album was nominated for a Grammy in the “Best Jazz Vocal Album” category.
The video below is the title track “Holly Room” recorded during the concert.
Somi has built her career while developing an original and hybrid sound she coined as “New African Jazz.” In 2007, she licensed her independently recorded album Red Soil in My Eyes to the Harmonia Mundi/World Village label for her first international distribution deal. The record received wide critical acclaim with the hit single “Ingele” that maintained a Top 10 position on U.S. World Music Charts for several months.
In 2009, Somi signed with independent record label ObliqSound. Her label debut “If the Rains Come First” was released in North America in 2009, and subsequently debuted at no. 2 on Billboard’s World Music Chart and no. 21 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart. The album features South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, Somi’s long-time mentor, as a guest on one track. In March 2011, Somi recorded her first live concert album at the legendary Jazz Standard in New York City. It was released on Palmetto Records in August 2011.
In 2013, Somi signed her first major label deal with Sony Music to become one of the first artists on their relaunched historic jazz imprint Okeh Records. Her album “The Lagos Music Salon”, which features Grammy-winning special guests Angelique Kidjo and Common and debuted at #1 on US Jazz Charts and was inspired by an 18-month sabbatical she took in Lagos, Nigeria. On the heels of much critical acclaim and a rapidly growing fan base in March 2017, she released Petite Afrique as her second album on Okeh Records. The album, which won a 2018 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album, is a song cycle about the large West African immigrant community in Harlem, New York City in the face of rapid gentrification. It features special guest Aloe Blacc.
More information can be found at her website here.
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Last modified: December 1, 2020