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A Samara Joy-ride at Scullers

Samara Joy performs at Scullers Jazz Club.Ben Stas for The Boston Globe/The Boston Globe

Singer Samara Joy may be new, but she’s clearly here to stay. The 22-year-old slayed a sold-out house (the first of two sets) at Scullers Jazz Club Friday night, with commanding musical authority and an ingratiating stage presence in a program that mixed lesser-known jazz standards and Great American Songbook classics. The show was her first in Boston, the 18th stop on a 59-date tour that included this summer’s Newport Jazz Festival; she will return to the area with a holiday show at the Regent Theatre in Arlington on Dec. 22.

Friday was also the release date for “Linger Awhile,” her second CD, and her first for major label Verve. The singer has been on a trajectory since winning the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2019, and the performance at Scullers showed why.


The gloriously voiced soprano established that authority from the get-go, entering to the beat of fast brushes played by drummer Evan Sherman: “This is the moment/this is the time/why don’t we take it/and make it sublime?” — all seemingly on one breath, taking it up to a starburst crescendo as pianist Connor Rohrer and bassist Felix Moseholm joined in.

It wasn’t just in fast tempos like “This Is the Moment” (from a 1948 Betty Grable movie, but brought to jazz by Kenny Dorham). She laid into the melodrama of Murray Grand and Elisse Boyd’s “Guess Who I Saw Today” (a hit for Nancy Wilson) without overplaying it, taking dips into her sumptuous lower register before slowly opening up and floating the last word of the last line — “It was you” — into the stratosphere.

Samara Joy at Scullers Jazz Club. Ben Stas for The Boston Globe/The Boston Globe

The most obvious comparison with Joy is Vaughan herself — the rich lower register, the baroque melodic ornamentation, swoops up and down octaves from word to word, multi-note melisma stretching one-syllable words to infinity. And it seems she’s eager to invent. Her setting of original lyrics to a Fats Navarro trumpet solo, “Nostalgia (The Day I Knew),” was like bebop bel canto — one long-flowing, multisyllabic line, with the “speaker” an imagined older man.


Sometimes I wished she’d slow down. In one daring choice, she sang “Worry Later,” a lyric adaptation of Thelonious Monk’s “San Francisco Holiday,” with words by Margo Guryan (who died in 2021). It was inspired by Jeanne Lee’s version of the song with pianist Ran Blake. Joy sang it a cappella, dramatic and moody. I wanted her to stay in that space a little longer before taking off with the band into uptempo.

But when she was swinging full tilt — on “Sweet Pumpkin,” or the new album’s title cut — there was no choice but to surrender. Gladly.

Jon Garelick can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jgarelick.


At Scullers Jazz Club, Friday