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With 'Girl Talk,' Sasha Dobson Returns to Standards and Swing, in a New York State of Mind

Sasha Dobson
L. Arthi Krishnaswami

Singer-songwriter Sasha Dobson's latest album, Girl Talk, is an engaging return to her first love: standards and swing.

Dobson, a gifted solo artist — and, together with Norah Jones and Catherine Popper, one-third of the Americana trio Puss n Boots — first established herself on New York's jazz scene in the early 2000's. With last year's shutdown, she seized the opportunity to execute a jazz project that had been brewing for several years. Dobson says her cross-genre acumen as a songwriter has positively influenced her new work as a bandleader and improviser.

WBGO's Let Me Tell You 'Bout It w/ Sasha Dobson

"I think I have more of a balanced outlook on humanity, on myself and on music in general," Dobson says in this installment of Let Me Tell You 'Bout It. "In my early days in New York... I was so all about jazz that I didn't even have an awareness for anything outside of that. Then I went completely into the [singer-songwriter] world...and it's definitely informed and shaped the way that I present myself as a jazz musician and particularly as a soloist."

On Girl Talk, Dobson and her band are skilled and surefooted, giving a definite contour to each of the album's 10 songs. Guitarist Peter Bernstein, bassist Neal Miner and drummer Kenny Wollesen are adept at playing a consistent narrative that allows the music to breathe as well as swing. Dobson elevates and shines brightly over the carefully curated arrangements.

"Better Days" is a Dobson original written just before the last session. It expresses a groovy yearning for a positive turn of events. As a California-born vocalist who has lived in New York since 1997, Dobson found that dealing with life in the pandemic also brought forward a lesser-known standard, "The Great City," that provides the perfect forum for inventory.

Sasha Dobson with Norah Jones - GIRL TALK - Official Music Video

"Having built my career in New York, it's hard to leave this place," Dobson says. "There's a strange love-hate because I think, when I'm in California, 'This is the most beautiful place. Why don't I live here?' But it is all about living in New York, and I thought that [recording "The Great City"] would be a tribute to New York."

Sasha Dobson will celebrate the release of Girl Talk at Birdland on Oct. 25.

Greg Bryant has been a longtime curator of improvisational music. At the age of 3 in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, he was borrowing his father’s records and spinning them on his Fisher Price turntable. Taking in diverse sounds of artistry from Miles Davis, Les McCann, James Brown, Weather Report and Jimi Hendrix gave shape to Greg's musical foundation and started him on a path of nonstop exploration.