Four quick “s” adjectives come to mind when you first hear Rebecca Angel, making for some nice descriptive alliteration: smooth, soulful, sensual and sultry. Listening to her soulfully produced and exquisitely arranged debut What We Had, we can top that off with sexy and unabashedly sentimental as well. The emerging NYC based singer makes every emotionally compelling track an invitation – to dream, to love, to reminisce wistfully about beautiful times gone by which infuse every waking thought of today. With every swaying breeze of her distinctive voice, whether she’s singing romantic lyrics or sharing her artful sense of vocalese, Rebecca tempts us to explore her cool and edgy contemporary update on the deeply exotic vibe of classic artists like Sade and Brazilian greats Bebel Gilberto and Astrud Gilberto.
She weaves this laid back magic over the old school soul, easy funk, ear tingling electronica and infectious grooves created by renowned jazz/R&B producer Jason Miles, who grounds every mix in the shimmering retro sounds of the Fender Rhodes, Vox Continental and Wurlitzer. He brought in some of New York’s finest for the various sessions. Rebecca’s dreamy and sensual twist on Hoagy Carmichael’s wistful (and not frequently covered) “Winter Moon” features acoustic bassist James Genus, percussionist Mino Cinelu and soprano saxophonist Haley Niswanger. The equally nostalgic title track “What We Had,” a slowly swaying look back at enduring memories of the sensory joys of a past romance, was penned by Rebecca and her father, trumpeter Dennis Angel, with additional lyrics by guitarist Jonah Prendergast. In addition to Miles’ keyboards and percussion loops, it features Christian Ver Halen’s crisp guitar licks and the easy grooving rhythm section of Reggie Washington (bass) and Brian Dunne (drums).
On the other tracks, Miles leads an ensemble featuring Ver Halen, Dunne, bassist Adam Dorn, and percussionist Cyro Baptista. Special guests include Prendergast, renowned acoustic guitarist Ricardo Silveira and cellist Sebastian Stoger on a playful, spirited cover of the Brazilian gem “Agora Sim,” featuring Miles’ intoxicating electro-percussion. Also featured are Dennis Angel and flutist Gottfried Stoger.
The EP includes two versions each of the rock classic “Stand By Me,” and “(Samba Jazz Happiness (Jet Samba),” the latter of which was a popular radio single for Rebecca, who released the festive, playfully rhythmic track to coincide with the Rio Olympics in 2016. The song, originally penned and recorded as an instrumental by Brazilian composer Marcos Valle, reached high on the FMQB Adult Contemporary chart. The EP includes an “Ipanema Beach” remix featuring danceable, hypnotic and carnivalesque percussion textures. The first version of “Stand By Me” also lends itself to a trip-hoppy hypnosis via electro-percussion behind Rebecca’s wistful vocals. The second, which closes the set, has a more mainstream, seductive vibe, perfect for adult contemporary radio. Rebecca and Dennis also co-wrote the set’s other original, “Feel Alive,” a charming and innocent declaration of love and how it changes the heart, which breezes along like a brisk stroll on a balmy evening without end.
Rebecca recently graduated with a degree in voice from Ithaca College, where she studied with Roseanna Vitro, Cyrille Aimee (whose version of “Stand By Me” inspired Rebecca to record it), Carol McAmis, Kim Nazarian and Maya Azucena; Azucena helped the singer take her vocal on “What We Had” to another level. With her unique vocal timbre, Rebecca could certainly venture into any genre she likes. Those engaging with her artistry for the first time will be glad she’s chosen to go the sophisticated chill samba route.