- Sofia Rei performs tonight, Friday, June 22, at 7: 30 p.m. at the West Vancouver Memorial Library as part of the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival's North Shore Jazz series. For more information and a complete schedule visit www.coastaljazz.ca.
SOFIA Rei's first trip to New York City made a lasting impression.
It was the Argentine singer/songwriter's second time out of her home country, and her initial experiences in the bustling metropolis are strongly ingrained in her memory.
"It was such a beautiful shock, that's exactly what it felt like, it was a beautiful shock," she laughs. "I felt this huge energy."
Visiting Manhattan with her family, the then 16-year-old native of Buenos Aires didn't stop, sleeping a mere few hours a night, walking for hours each day and visiting countless points of interest, all in an effort to see as much of the famed city as possible.
"Everything was so new and interesting and you could feel how the city pushes you all the time to create, to be active, to do things," says Rei. "Now that I live here, I still really like that. I like the fact that it's a place where everybody has that kind of energy. Where most people are here, especially in the arts field, it's people that move to New York because they love what they do. They really want to make a career out of music or art. . . . People move to New York to fulfill their dreams and to do what they love. That energy, you can really feel it, and it's very special and powerful and I think it pushes you forward."
Now a fulltime resident of the Big Apple, Rei is an accomplished performer, drawing on her diverse musical background. Her sound reflects her Argentine roots - both her classical training and the Latin American folkloric tradition she was immersed in as a child - her continued exploration of the jazz genre, and countless cultural influences she's picked up over the years through the talented musicians she's collaborated with. An accomplished vocalist, Rei sings in Spanish, Portuguese and English.
"To create the style of the music that I'm doing, I think it took many years because I did so many different things," she says, reached Tuesday from New York.
"All these different projects that I've participated in, all these different styles of music, I think I can finally put them together through my compositions, through my own songs," she adds.
Tonight, Rei will perform at the West Vancouver Memorial Library. A free show, the concert is part of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival's North Shore Jazz series. A number of local performances, both free and ticketed, are scheduled throughout the festival's run, from June 22 to July 1, including the New Orleans Ale Stars, tomorrow at 1 p.m. at the City of North Vancouver's Civic Plaza (free), and the Daniel Lapp Quartet: A Tribute to Chet Baker and Beyond, tomorrow evening at Presentation House Theatre at 8 p.m. (Tickets: $17/$15).
Rei is excited to be taking the stage in West Vancouver and will be accompanied by her band, Eric Kurimski on guitar, Jorge Roeder, on bass, and Franco Pinna, drums and percussion.
She plans to perform some works from her upcoming fall album, which is almost complete.
"We've been working on this music for quite a while now," says Rei. "It's a collection of songs of mine. We worked with my bass player Jorge Roeder on the arrangements, the musical direction and the production of the record. I'm really proud of this collection of songs."
The tracks have Argentine, Columbian, Peruvian, Uruguayan and Spanish influences, as well, feature both electronic and loop effects, and traditional instrumentation from the folkloric tradition.
"There are more voices than my previous albums," says Rei, resulting in a greater richness than her previous works.
The new record, the title of which she's keeping under wraps for now, is a follow to her 2010 sophomore release, Sube Azul.
Earlier this month, Rei had an opportunity to perform in her hometown, which is always a "fantastic" experience, she says.
"Normally I don't get to play in front of my family and close friends from my whole life," she says. "Through these concerts I get to see people that I haven't seen for many years. . . . You know that you're singing, you're performing for people that have known you for a very long time, that have heard you also for many years and have a very special connection. So it's always really nice."
Rei has been a professional singer since age nine, getting her start with the Colon Theater Children's Choir. Growing up, she maintained a hectic schedule, continuing to study voice and classical singing, and performed with a number of ensembles, including Argentina's National Youth Choir, and she went on to study music at the post-secondary level in Buenos Aires.
While she grew up immersed in the classical tradition, Rei gradually gained an interest in jazz music, both traditional and contemporary.
"I was really, really interested in studying how to use the voice as an instrument, how to use extended techniques, how to develop the voice and the possibilities of the voice, especially for improvisation," she says.
Unable to find the right teacher in Buenos Aires, she decided to move to Boston, Mass., and received her master's degree at the New England Conservatory, which gave her the opportunity to study with a variety of jazz legends, including Charlie Banacos, Danilo Perez, Dominique Eade and Steve Lacy. She's currently a faculty member of Boston's Berklee College of Music, teaching voice.
Rei has a number of performances scheduled in the coming months, including tomorrow night's appearance at the Victoria International JazzFest, and is involved in a number of musical projects. For example, she's working on new music for her New York-based international a capella quartet, Mycale, commissioned by John Zorn, with a plan to record a new album by the end of the year.
"To be able to sing and especially to sing your music, to sing what you love most and share it with musicians that you really love - that are your friends, that are your partners and that you have all this trust in, all these people, and making music together - it's something very special and very unique and I can't see myself doing anything else," she says.