Boston-based vocalist Laura Grill is a little bit bluegrass, a little bit jazz
by Allan Wigney
“This,” Boston-based vocalist Laura Grill enthuses, “will be my third year coming up for the jazz festival.”
Well, not strictly for the festival. For while you may see Grill in the audience at Confederation Park or the National Arts Centre this weekend, the New England Conservatory alumnus has her own show to do. The songwriter’s expressive vocal style ensures jazz will be a factor at her Raw Sugar performance, but Grill prefers to think she’s more than a little bit folk.
“The original concept,” she says of the road that began as a school project and eventually led to her debut album, Never Before, “was to take these great jazz players and see how it would sound if you gave them something simple, something with four chords.”
The results traverse musical terrain that includes old-timey folk, blues and country, with a pleasant detour in the form of a charming arrangement for guitar and clarinet of Sixpence None the Richer’s previously insufferable Kiss Me. Throughout, Never Before is, at heart, a jazz record. But that’s OK.
“It’s jazz musicians playing folk,” Grill submits. “The problem with my music is that some people have a hard time thinking of it as jazz and some have a hard time thinking of it as bluegrass. But I’m starting to embrace the fact that we don’t fit into a particular category. It’s really hard to come up with a valid description of the music.”
Enchanting. That might describe it. And whether performing songs from the album she and former classmates recorded in the New England woods, or offering fresh in-concert takes on tunes by everyone from Regina Spektor to Avril Lavigne, Grill and her accompanists are worthy of an embrace.
For Saturday’s show, Grill will perform alongside another NEC grad and former classmate, Steve Boudreau, as well as Matt Ouimet. Those two locals will be joined earlier in the evening by Philip Shaw Bova for a Friends on Friends set. Friends, indeed.
“I’m excited about playing with Steve and Matt,” Grill says. “And it’s a good excuse to get back up there for the jazz festival.”
Even if she’ll have to miss Saturday night’s Jazzfest bill, due to a prior commitment.
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