In the two years since the release of her debut, Musical Playground, Sasha Masakowski has blossomed from a fresh-faced song girl into an enchanting songstress. The 24-year-old vocalist’s follow-up, Wishes, is a daring and dynamic effort that captures the creativity and cunningness of the Crescent City’s new generation of jazz musicians.
Early on, an auspicious interpretation of Ellis Marsalis’ “Syndrome” makes a powerful statement. Arranged by producer and bandmate James Westfall, the band reshapes the song’s contemporary swing into a propulsive, polyrhythmic jaunt as Masakowski escalates the push and pull with insightful lyrics. The group’s imaginative and intuitive interplay comes through once again on their arresting take on the well-trodden “St. James Infirmary.” Masakowski’s defiant emphasis on the lyric, “He’ll never find no one like me,” liberates the original’s deceased damsel, and the band transforms the mysterious dirge into a rhapsodic wake.
The band’s adventurousness combined with Masakowski’s fetching performance makes for alluring and invigorating aural experience. The title track, one of Masakowski’s two originals on the album, is an intoxicating number that showcases the group’s vibrant spirit and harmonic interaction. Later, the Masakowski-Westfall collaboration, “Yours: A Love/ Hate Letter to My Hometown,” showcases their depth and conviction. Several Brazilian songs also make their way onto Wishes including lively versions of “Canto de Ossanha,” and “Manha de Carnaval.” A dramatically different rendering of “E Preciso Perdoar” than the one presented on her previous endeavor and a Portuguese version of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” (a la Seu Jorge) do little but speak for Masakowski’s fascination with the language. Though interesting, the disc, which clocks in at well over an hour, would hold up just fine without them—particularly leading into the beautiful, Masakowski-penned closer, “Pieces of You,” a high-point in this young chanteuse’s promising career.