Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


March/April 2012: Dee Daniels

Becca Stevens

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Becca Stevens is a creative powerhouse. A guitarist, singer, songwriter, teacher, and band leader, she is making a big impact on the American jazz and Americana scenes—everyone wants to work with her! She leads her own Becca Stevens Band, but she also collaborates with Gretchen Parlato and Rebecca Martin in a trio called Tillery, co-writes with Taylor Eigsti and sang on his last album, collaborates with Alan Hampton, Brad Mehldau, Larry Grenadier, and Lionel Loueke, and has been the lead singer for Travis Sullivan’s Bjorkestra.

Stevens is a classically-trained guitarist, earning her BFA from The New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in NYC after moving from her family’s home in North Carolina. She continues to stretch her musical chops by learning and performing on an array of stringed instruments, including the ukulele, charango and African harp.

I first heard Becca Stevens on her album Tea Bye Sea (2008), and it immediately became one of those records that made the rest of my library seem dull. Her song writing is surprising, with unexpected turns and enigmatic lyrics. She has a clear, pure voice, and instead of vocal acrobatics, she offers remarkable taste and subtle nuance, and a straighter-than-most tone that says, “I mean this—listen up.”  If she is imitating someone, I don’t know who it is.  She sounds and writes like Becca Stevens.

 

She is also known for her fresh, make-you-love-it-more-than-the-original covers. While her first album is all originals, her second album, Weightless (2011), includes four imaginative covers. You have to hear it to believe it—check her out on YouTube.

In the spring of 2010, I met Becca at her Brooklyn apartment for a lesson. Of course I asked about her song-writing process and how she communicates with her bandmates. She let me listen to a song in the works that she recorded herself on her computer, having layered the tracks of the different instruments. She played out every instrument herself as closely as she could to what she wanted to hear.  Because she didn’t have a drum kit at home, she said she improvised by pounding out the rhythms on her hardwood floor. I was inspired! Becca is an architect of song-writing—she hears everything.

Becca Stevens is driven, and her projects are meaningful and pointed. Can you tell that I love her music? You will too.


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