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Album review: 'Picture in Black and White'


Tessa Souter

"Picture in Black and White"

NOA Records

Concept albums are common in rock, but rare in the jazz realm. Tessa Souter's "Picture in Black and White" -- set for release on October 5 -- breaks that mold. Souter, a Rochester favorite after multiple jazz festival appearances, has created an exquisite musical exploration of her identity. At the age 28, she discovered that her birth father was black and her roots reached from Africa to the Caribbean, from Celtic Britain to Andalusian Spain. Musical strains from all of these places permeate the album.

Among the many highlights: on the opener, "Kothbiro," Souter harmonizes with herself beautifully in the Kenyan language of Dholuo; her composition "Dancing Girl" segues so perfectly into U2's "Where The Streets Have No Name," you'd think the two songs had always been together. Additionally, Souter wrote poignant lyrics to Wayne Shorter's "Ana Maria" with Shorter's blessing. Souter eventually met her biological father, and the title tune reflects her feelings about him.

With gorgeous tone and impeccable phrasing, Souter's voice is thrilling throughout. Arrangements are nicely sparse, with all of the players -- guitarist and oud player Yotam Silberstein, Adam Platt on piano, cellist Dana Leong, Yasushi Nakamura on bass; drummer Billy Drummond, and Keita Ogawa on percussion -- providing the perfect lift for this journey.