By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
There is something inherently retro about a bossa nova/jazz make-out album. Mari Rosa's debut disc, Honeyspot, feels like the sonic progeny of Martin Denny's Afro-Desia (1959) and Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz's Getz Au Go-Go (1964). Like those two classics, songwriter/vocalist Rosa's disc resists blushing at its own suave subtext.
The Boston native (of Italian, Argentine, and Anglo descent) comes to the world of baby-making music by way of academia. After receiving awards for oratory in high school, she was selected for a public service fellowship and a post at the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office. "Most people anticipated that I'd become a lawyer," Rosa says, laughing. But after graduating from Sarah Lawrence College, she went on to study voice and composition at Berklee College of Music. She has used her singing and songwriting to pursue her lifelong love of storytelling. Among the many gifts of her multicultural upbringing, she counts a sensitivity to lyrical nuance.
In 2005 Rosa received her first Billboard Music Award for songwriting; she wrote nine of the twelve songs on Honeyspot, which is still being shopped to labels. She composes in jazz, bossa nova, and bolero styles, and various heady amalgams thereof. During a single show, Rosa shifts gears comfortably from genre to genre, from English to Spanish to Portuguese.
This versatility has brought about collaborations with Scott Healy of the Max Weinberg 7, as well as members of Bill Frisell's and Don Friedman's bands. Rosa's touring ensemble, which she directs, consists of a drummer, bassist, pianist, and trumpeter. The group suits Rosa's dynamic sensibilities, especially Zach Fields's confident, splashy drumming.
Her record label describes Honeyspot as a concept album. It is also like Pink Floyd's Meddle and the Ohio Players' Honey a conception album.