Emy Tseng made her debut performance at Manhattan's Metropolitan Room on Saturday, May 3. With her were Q Morrow on guitar, bassist David Jernigan, Lyle Link on sax & flute, and drummer Vanderlei Pereira. Tseng was in New York celebrating the release of Sonho, her album of Brazilian jazz.
“Brazilian jazz is an obsession of mine", Tseng stated frankly and warmly from stage. And indeed, the majority of her concert was in the beautiful Portuguese tongue. Whatever language she sings in, though, one thing is certain; Emy Tseng has a lovely voice. Following her obsession, Brazilian jazz served as bookends to her performance. A.C. Jobim's "Agua de Berber", opening the night, showed off the ensemble beautifully. Lyle Link performed the first of many lovely solos, this time on flute. It was refreshing to hear flute used so well in this show, as it is not seen nearly enough in the jazz repertoire. Tseng smartly rounded out her set with “Chega de Saudade”, the first recorded bossa nova song, by A.C Jobim in 1958.
Between numbers, Tseng was incredibly warm and friendly with the audience, telling of her time studying with Marcos Silva, about struggling with syncopation and about her teacher's differences from the laid-back attitude you would expect from Brazilian music. Apparently, Silva and Tseng worked together well, because she was remarkably on top of the beat the whole set. Tseng's shining moments, though, were in English-language songs like “I Thought About You” and Suzanne Vega's “Caramel”. In addition to Tseng's lovely tones and soft expression, “Caramel” featured a beautiful guitar solo by Q Morrow. Her arrangement of “California Dreamin”, was a special treat. Showing off not only her skills as an arranger but her humor, she wistfully sang “I'd be safe and warm if I was by the bay”, substituting L. A with longing for her bay area home. Tseng's warmth and artistic sensitivity shone through all her numbers; Brazilian and English jazz and pop, and even one, "Aquelas Cosas Todas" which left the world of language all together.
Overall, Tseng brought a warmth to her music that is not always seen in performers. Her personality and sweet voice shined brightly through all of her music, making her someone you want to know. It is heartening to see this openness in a performer, in a world that often discourages it.