LAVAHI is as much a jazz singer as she is a soul crooner. She is a revelation in the modern music idiom, the grandeur of her performances hovering enticingly somewhere between Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. She is both a neo-soul queen and shamanic shape-shifter, in her ability to switch between tones and nuances. Listening to LAVAHI on record is to be reminded what an extraordinary, self-directed affair her music is. Its stripped-down grooves rely on little more than an intoxicating rhythm section plus shimmery keyboards and guitars. Her quest for authenticity brings dignity and intelligence back into new soul and jazz vibes. “Forever” is not just the singer-songwriter’s debut single, but her artistic vision and lead up to the album “From Afar”.
Collaborating with percussionist Elé Howell in California, bassist Dennis Turner in Maryland, guitarists Frank Rankin and Chris Mazuera in New York, violinist Mollie Ducoste in Pennsylvania, keyboardist Walter Baker in Virginia, and saxophonist Tracey Cutler and horn players from DuPont Brass in Washington, DC, LAVAHI’s album is truly a product of her tenacity to see her dreams come to fruition. Her voice gives evident traces of past vocal legends. And if you have a penchant for the sound of ‘good old days’, there are enough nostalgic moments here to make you smile.
However, it’s irrelevant because LAVAHI is enough of an artist in her own right. In fact, it seems from listening to this record that she arrived fully formed and distinctive. LAVAHI’s character shines through her songs, and that’s not always the case with modern neo-soul. The very fact that she does have a distinctive voice helps enormously in this.
Sure, the musical backing at times is majestically compelling but her voice sails effortlessly over the top and shapes the music in the process. As far as the song itself is concerned, it is easy to listen to on a surface level but dig deeper, listen more – and more nuances and depths are revealed. The lyrics too, are fine, quality things.
On “Forever” her voice is languid, sensual and playful all at the same time. It’s such a fantastic voice, you’re really forced to focus on it. Well, you don’t have to, of course, but it’s hard not to. Very hard indeed to resist, and why would you? This is glorious stuff from LAVAHI.
The track shows a strong Jazz influence in her vocal performance while the music is pure and relaxed neo-soul music. High quality neo-soul music, embellished with jazzy stylings. Ripping up the smooth urban rule-book and pioneering a fresh perspective with her debut single, LAVAHI’s performance is a masterclass in authenticity for other aspiring artists in this genre.
Simultaneously experimental and timeless, this is a comforting, mellifluously-rich musical blend, taking the neo-soul movement to the next level. I’d recommend “Forever” to anybody who loves good music. LAVAHI is different, she’s unique. That wondrous voice of hers alone will ensure she has a long career ahead of her.