Live Review: Anissa Lea

Hart Plaza/ Absopure Waterfront Stage/Detroit Jazz Festival  Detroit, MI

Contact: [email protected]

Web: anissalea.com

Players: Anissa Lea, lead vocals; Adam Allen, guitar; Rob Emanuel, drums; Kurt Krahnke, upright bass; Kurt Schreitmueller, keyboards; Keith Kaminski, saxophone; Justin Garrett Walker, trumpet

Material: A seamless and stunning cross-section of modern jazz peppered with classic soul and pop flavorings is what you will find in this artist’s catalog. Lea also works original songs into the mix that are unique, yet reflective of her cover choices. Intricate and lyrically compelling tunes like “Face to Face” and “Life” give you a window into the singer’s soulful inventiveness. Deep cuts like Barrett Strong’s “Misery” and Billie Holiday’s “Good Morning Heartache” display a rich musical knowledge base and a deep respect for all that has come before.

Musicianship: Simply put, you’ve got the cream of the crop for jazz in Detroit and beyond. Lea is just beginning to make her transition to larger venues and audiences, yet she has all the style and panache of a veteran performer. Kaminski and Walker play with stellar precision and push each selection forward with their punchy charts and well executed accents. Krahnke and Emanuel create a gossamer ebb and flow that shifts the collective groove from sambas to swing at a moment’s notice. On the melodic front, Allen elicits an array of complementary lead lines and accompaniment, while Schreitmueller offers sharp counterpoint and ambience.

Performance: A capacity crowd and a lovely day in close proximity to the Detroit River set the mood for the main event. This was the young raven-haired chanteuse’s international festival debut, and she brought all the gravitas and attitude one would expect from a headliner. Lea darted all across the stage, interacting with her guitarist, taking cues from the band and keeping friendly and engaging dialogue with the audience. Highlights included the Peggy Lee-inspired “Black Coffee,” where Emanuel’s drumming created exciting syncopation and an uptempo spirit. The Drifters’ “This Magic Moment” was one of Lea’s strongest vocals and the band provided an ample platform for her to riff and show her stuff. The aforementioned “Life” was one of the more personal songs for the young songstress and the pianist’s Kenny Barron-like support truly brought out the best in her heart-gripping message.

Summary: Anissa Lea has been singing since her pre-teens and is now transitioning into, not just a consummate interpreter of timeless jazz and pop standards, but an insightful and savvy songwriter in her own right. Her pairing with these international Motor City heavyweights is a natural and brilliant combination.