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Album review: 'Ámbar'


Camila Meza & The Nectar Orchestra


Sony Masterworks

When Camila Meza moved from her native Chile to New York City a decade ago, she brought with her a wealth of folk tradition and a gorgeous voice. Since then, she has absorbed the best of New York's musical culture and steadily risen in the ranks of jazz vocalists. I first heard her at the Rochester International Jazz Festival a few years ago, and was impressed by her vocals and her guitar playing. Her new album, "Ámbar," is the finest I've heard by a jazz singer this year.

Meza is backed throughout by The Nectar Orchestra, a septet dominated by strings. The album's wonderfully edgy string arrangements were written by bassist Noam Wiesenberg. Meza writes poetically in both English and Spanish, and her compositions, like "Kallfu," dynamically exploit her voice. Her covers are well-chosen, including Elliott Smith's heart-wrenching "Waltz #1" and the politically relevant "This Is Not America" by David Bowie, Lyle Mays, and Pat Metheny.