What you see is what you get with Elin. A pretty face with a voice to match, the Irish-Peruvian jazz starlet creates breezy music as intriguing as her background. The singer spent years refining her mature and sultry sound while learning five languages and absorbing the cultural awareness particular to those who have lived on several continents. She keeps her singing far from monotonous via smooth vocals that slink over varying rhythms or break out into playful scats that flow in unison with the supporting instruments.
Although Elin (born Kathleen Celia Elin Melgarejo) has a repertoire that's refreshingly free of dullness, ennui led her to a discovery that shaped the course of her future. Bored in her home in Sweden, the then-teenager stumbled across her parents' record collection, where Brazilian jazz gems like João Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim lay waiting to inspire the fledgling songbird. Although her knowledge of jazz and bossa nova was limited, the discovery immediately entranced the young musician, and Elin soon found herself in a second-hand record store, delving deeper into the genre. "When I played [those records] ... time stood still. It was the most fascinating thing I'd ever heard. I had been studying music all my life. I knew music, but I didn't know jazz per se," says Elin. The opposite can now be said as she prepares to release her debut album, Lazy Afternoon, an urbane work that unfolds with exotic jazz and pop sensibility.
A product of her multicultural upbringing and expeditions in Europe and Brazil, the album showcases Elin's linguistic prowess and worldly influence through jazz standards and originals sung in English, Portuguese, and Spanish. Language is not the only barrier she crosses on the release. Brazilian classics such as "Aquarela do Brasil" and a baião version of "Vera Cruz" share space with American favorites like "Fascinating Rhythm" and the dreamy "Lazy Afternoon." The effect that different cultures have had on Elin never ceases to present itself in her work.
Elin performs at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Thursday, August 24, at the Arturo Sandoval Jazz Club, 6701 Collins Ave, Miami Beach. Admission is $20. Her debut album, Lazy Afternoon, hits shelves September 5.
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"One of my dreams is when I do shows in different countries ... to learn a song that's very known to that particular country and then perform it as an homage.... It's kind of like my tribute to these cultures and languages that fascinate me," reveals the singer.
Aside from being influenced by her travels, Elin garners inspiration from within. The songstress's ability to harness her feelings and emit them through song is exemplified on the track "I Love New York." Having been employed at the World Trade Center when it was destroyed, Elin delivers heartfelt crescendos that reflect her experience and genuine sentiment.
"Jazz is a very emotional music, and I think that I've always been a very emotional person. So I was able to grasp that and use it in the way that I would sing and interpret songs. Whatever emotions and depths that I've experienced in life, I go there when I'm performing," she explains.
Elin's globetrotting brought her to the United States, where she furthered her musical studies at the University of Miami. The fast talker and emotive singer has since settled in New York. Nearly worlds away from her humble beginnings in Sweden, Elin holds a notion of jazz that seems to parallel her life and music: "There's a lot of freedom for the performer. There's also a lot of spontaneity for the person listening to the music, because you just never know what to expect and you never know where it's going to go or where it's going take you."