NEw YORK MUSIC DAILY
on "Cities Between Us"
Allegra Levy seems to be shooting for a franchise on heartbreak. For anybody who’s been blindsided – and let’s be honest, who hasn’t – she sings your life back to you.
She’s an anomaly in the vocal jazz world, a strong original songwriter who’d rather sing her own material than standards from decades ago. Her low-key, moody 2014 debut album Lonely City captured the downside of romance against a purist, trad backdrop. Her new album Cities Between Us – streaming at Spotify – swings harder and has more optimism, but there’s no evading the darkness in her writing.
Her lyrics are uncommonly smart, full of striking imagery and a pervasive angst. As all first-rate jazz vocalists do, she sings in character, word by word, line by line: you would think that other jazz singers would have a similarly meticulous, emotionally attuned approach, but unfortunately most of them don’t.
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NEW YORK TIMES
on "Lonely City"
"The core of the young jazz singer Allegra Levy, at the moment, lies in negative or desperate statements, in songs she’s written like “Anxiety,” “I Don’t Want to Be in Love,” and “I’m Not Okay,” from her album “Lonely City” (Steeplechase). She’s got a good thing going: fresh and gloomy, light-voiced and grim-tempered. She’s not out to clobber you with speed or skill or projection — she hangs back but arrives at the notes responsibly, without a big show, incorporating careful 1950s cool but authentic modern cynicism, too. The band — including the saxophonist Adam Kolker and guitarist Steve Cardenas — and John McNeil’s arrangements make the songs complex and exotic, pushing them far beyond the ordinary."
~ Ben Ratliff- The New York Times
JAZZ TIMES MAGAZINE
on "Lonely City"
"Discovering a fresh, dynamic jazz voice is always a delight. When the singer proves as an equally gifted songwriter, the pleasure is squared. Allegra Levy is one such double-barreled talent. The recent New England Conservatory grad, a crystalline alto with a sultry layer of Chris Connor-esque smoke, made her recording debut while still in her teens, teaming with guitarist Elden Kelly to shape 2008's A New Face. while mightily promising, that mix of covers and originals clearly suggested Levy needed more ripening.
And Blossom she has. Lonely City comprises 11 Levy originals, including two selections from the earlier album that have been impressively revitalized. Working with a tight quintet featuring standout saxophonist Adam Kolker, Levy mirrors the dexterity of Peggy Lee, able to both swing like mad (most notable on the galloping "I Don't Want to Be in Love") and snuggle tenderly inside a ballad. Like Lee, she can also be deliciously coy and coltish, as fetchingly demonstrated in the opening "Anxiety," sort of an insouciant "Black Coffee."
Lee was, of course, a superb tunesmith. Levy also excels as a songwriter, particularly as a lyricist. Her wordplay occasionally approaches the canniness of Cole Porter, and as a storyteller she variously aspires to the prowess of Harold Arlen, Carolyn Leigh and Stephen Sondheim.
She is unquestionably, one to watch."
The HArtford Courant
"Levy's music is sophisticated, worldly and swinging, with a wide range of tonal colors and moods not unlike Portland's Pink Martini. Levy's voice is one we should expect to hear from for a long time."
- Michael Hammad Hartford Courant
" Lonely City is not only a showcase for her vocal craftsmanship, but also for her skills as a composer, with a knack for lyrical melodies, and as a lyricist who writes with a memoirlike directness about love and the complexity of relationships. "
"Artistically, Levy’s tunes are tempered by her love for the classic traditions of song writing. This aesthetic and historical consciousness is seasoned with a distinctly contemporary sensibility echoing through her lyrics. As part of her signature style, she loves to play on the seeming paradox of life’s contradictory mixes, whether of old and new styles, or lyrics that are simultaneously self deprecating yet defiant, or moods that are deeply introspective, then dance as a celebration of life."
"Her singing is rooted in a similar sort of artistic declaration of independence. Instead of just going along with the fashionably loud and flashy style of the moment, she wrings meaning through nuanced inflection and expressive phrasing." -Owen McNally WNPR