MANHATTAN, NY—Sasha Dobson grew up in a family of jazz musicians in Santa Cruz, California. Her father, Smith Dobson, was a pianist, her mom was a singer and her brother became a drummer. Sasha moved to Brooklyn at 17 and quickly assimilated into the local jazz scene, mastering the art of vocal improvisation and scat singing. Upon learning of her father’s death in a car accident in 2001, she picked up her guitar and started writing songs and performing in music clubs with her friend Norah Jones. Jones hit the big time and invited Dobson to sing background vocals and play guitar and percussion on her The Fall tour. Dobson was also Jones’ opening act. They now perform and record together as Puss N’ Boots. Dobson’s second and most recent album is Aquarius.
Singer-songwriters in New York are as plentiful as traffic lights. One has to shine very bright to stand out among the others. Dobson has been able to do this. On Jan. 13 at The Bowery Electric, Dobson often avoided standard singer-songwriter vocal phrasings by injecting a unique jazz vocal styling. Experiences of love, loss, learning and recovery seemed to ignite her personal journey and her passions, and her jazzy inflections uniquely articulated these moments. This slurring, soulful singing made her lyrics difficult to decipher at times, but it was at those times that her songs seemed as if they were generated from a cathartic emotional release than a clever use of vocabulary. Guitarist Joel Hamilton then added brief jazz and guitar blasts to echo Dobson’s vocal performance. Meanwhile, her band rocked more intensely than singer-songwriter bands usually do, making Dobson’s performance that much more powerful. Dobson appeared tonight to be outgrowing the folk club circuit in favor of the rock circuit. Maybe it is there that her innovative approach will be discovered and appreciated.
Visit Sasha Dobson at sashadobson.com.