San Diego’s legacy of great female torch singers tilts toward the blues side of the aisle: Jeannie Cheatham, Ella Ruth Piggee, Missy Andersen. As far as straight-ahead jazz singers, Peggy Claire and Cynthia Hammond have been among the best known, but neither carved out as large a niche as Cheatham, Piggee, or Andersen.
Sacha Boutros has both the pipes and the touch to bring jazz singing to the same levels of attention as the blues, long enjoyed in the local scene.
Sacha’s latest CD, NY After Dark, finds her surrounded by a stellar band worthy of any national release: Terell Stafford on trumpet and flugelhorn, a rhythm section of Peter Washington (bass) and Lewis Nash (drums), guitarist Peter Sprague, and pianist John Di Marino, along with percussionist Tommy Aros.
And Sacha (she is apparently going by her first name as her stage name) more than holds her own in this top-flight company, turning in classic reading after classic reading of standards ranging from “The Best Is Yet to Come,” “I Believe in You,” “Devil May Care,” and a languid version of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” that utterly sparkles.
Another standout is a bossa nova turn of the Rodgers and Hart gem “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” anchored by Sprague’s rhythmic comping on guitar. On the very next track, Lewis adds a rich duet vocal on “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You” that reminds more than a little of the late Lou Rawls.
Gifted with a deep voice with dark timbre and decent range, Sacha has worked hard over the years to couple her natural talent to a well-honed skill and turn that voice into a true instrument. She knows how to use space, how to hold a pause, how to ride just behind the beat to best effect. Most of all, she has presence.
In other words, she has learned how to sing.
Sacha has also turned pen to paper, bringing two of her own songs to the studio. “Sa.Cha.Cha” is a breezy, fun Latin jazz number. “I Have Thought of You” is a contemporary pop song that makes a nice bookend to her cover of Sting’s “Fragile.”
The result is a remarkable album of vocal jazz, likely to be one of the very best collections of straight-ahead jazz singing released anywhere in the world during 2013.