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Award-winning jazz singer/songwriter Allegra Levy brings her distinctive brand of sweet, swinging elegance straight to the hearts of young and old alike with her first album for children and families, Songs for You and Me, to be released on April 7, 2023.
Named a Top 10 Rising Star among jazz vocalists in DownBeat’s 2021 Critics’ Poll, Allegra Levy is that rare jazz songbird who pens her own tunes. Songs for You and Me offers families a jewel-box collection of sparkling songs that fit right in with the music Allegra loved while growing up: Raffi, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald, and more. “This album was written for everyone,” Allegra notes, “because the little kid in us still just wants to sing along.”
“Coming from a degree in jazz vocal performance from New England Conservatory, the last place I thought I’d end up was recording children’s music … until I became a mom,” adds Allegra. “During the pandemic and once Stella Plum was born, my listening demographic shifted from the city’s crowded, dingy basement clubs to a bright and beaming audience of one. Yet simple melodies have always been my truest form of self-expression,” she observes, “and they have never flowed more naturally than when I’m with my daughter. I didn’t want to ‘dumb’ anything down for a learning child, but I tried to keep things accessible and singable.”
Long involved in activism and human rights, Allegra Levy was shocked, when working for a preschool music program at a Manhattan private school, to discover that some classic children’s songs harken back to the days of Jim Crow. “We don’t always know the history of every children’s song, which is why I feel it’s so important to create a new generation of music,” says Allegra. “I wrote these tunes and lyrics with a goal of contributing to a new sound for today’s world, which values diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Kicking off Songs for You and Me is “Hello Song,” a joyful, multilingual greeting between friends, conceived as a kind of modern-day “It’s a Small World.” Allegra’s daughter, Stella, whose ancestry is a mix of Hong Kong Chinese, German, and Ashkenazi Jewish, is growing up speaking English, Spanish, and Cantonese. Allegra wants children like Stella to see themselves reflected in song. After inviting friends from all around the world to contribute their uniquely rich heritage, Allegra was overwhelmed with responses, including greetings in Farsi, Hebrew, Vietnamese, French, Mandarin, Zulu, Polish, Japanese, and Korean. Allegra says, “There were too many to even use! This really solidified my feeling that music can be a vehicle for peace and change.”
Other highlights include the unbeatably catchy food song, “Noodles!,” which grew out of a sorely trying day in Allegra’s life as a young mom, when it felt like everything she attempted was just wrong. To cope, she sat down at the keyboard, laughed at herself and the situation, and wrote this swinging number. On “Stella for Star,” Allegra’s vocals float like magic, complemented by Katie Seiler’s stellar whistling, beautiful single-string guitar picking from Andrew Baird, and pianistic contributions from Jason Yeager, defining the word “perfection.”
ABOUT ALLEGRA LEVY:
A native of West Hartford, Connecticut now based in New York, Allegra Levy has been dubbed a “double-barreled talent” and “unquestionably one to watch” by JazzTimes magazine. Allegra is known not only for her richly sweet yet swinging alto voice, but also for writing catchy, emotive songs grounded in tradition, with a nod to the progressive. She has appeared at most of the top clubs in New York City, including The Jazz Standard, Birdland Theater, Zinc Bar, The Bitter End, Cornelia Street Café, and The Blue Note. From 2014 to 2015, Allegra also served as artist in residence at the world-famous Blue Bar in the Hong Kong Four Seasons Hotel.
“Fresh … exotic… and far beyond the ordinary,” wrote Ben Ratliff in The New York Times of Allegra Levy’s 2014 autobiographical debut album, Lonely City. From Lonely City’s plaintive title track to Allegra’s critically acclaimed 2017 follow-up release, Cities Between Us, and beyond, Allegra Levy has penned a lyrical collection of harmonically adventurous-yet-familiar originals steeped in the spirit of the Great American Songbook.
Allegra’s third album, 2018’s Looking at the Moon, was named an Editor’s Pick in both DownBeat Magazine and JazzTimes. In 2020, she released a fourth album, Lose My Number: Allegra Levy Sings John McNeil, to rave reviews. Lose My Number features Allegra’s own lyrics set to the tunes of renowned jazz trumpeter John McNeil. The New Yorker called it “a showcase for Levy’s… agile vocalizing and her gift for sculpting words, and for McNeil’s far too neglected abilities as a melodic architect.” Marc Myers of JazzWax enthused, “As I listened to Lose My Number, I flipped. Allegra’s voice was wonderfully hip, the song melodies were unknown but sophisticated and savvy, the lyrics were superb and smart, and she was backed by three women. If ever an album dismissed the notion that female jazz artists don’t measure up to their male counterparts, this one scatters that myth to the wind. Lose My Number is among my favorite jazz vocal albums of the year.”
Allegra Levy’s career continues to accumulate accolades. In addition to being featured in the 2021 DownBeat Critics’ Poll as a Top 10 Rising Star Jazz Vocalist, Allegra won the 2020 John Lennon Songwriting Contest’s “Stuck at Home” edition for “Wash My Hands” (a children’s song to encourage healthy habits during the Covid pandemic), as well as first place in the 2019 Great American Song Contest’s Adult Contemporary Music Category for her original pop tune, “Waste My Time.” Also in 2019, Allegra’s composition, “Man in the Moon,” from the short film Astronaut Hour – for which she wrote the entire score – won Best Original Song in the International Independent Film Awards competition. Allegra is also proud of her work with the Women in Jazz Organization, for which she serves on the leadership team. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, JP, their daughter, Stella Plum, and their dog, Luna.
Songs for You and Me will be available on all streaming services, Amazon, and www.allegralevy.com beginning on Stella Plum’s second birthday, April 7, 2023.
Categories: Music Talk Stuff