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Sophie Berkal-Sarbit

Teenaged jazz singer must be channelling golden-era greats

In spite of the fact she's only graced this planet for 16 years, Winnipeg's Sophie Berkal-Sarbit has much of what it takes to make it as a jazz singer. Just give a listen to her debut album “The Gypsy On my Soul” and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Judging from her rock-steady performances, you'd think she's channelling some of the classic jazz singers from the golden era of jazz, like Peggy Lee and Billie Holiday. She can twirl her vocal chords around the lyrics of her 11 selections quite nicely and even does a tad of scatting, easily out-singing many ladies twice her age who call themselves jazz singers.

Her voice is extremely pure, clean, dreamy and technically superb. Generally, that's not a problem. But when you sing slow jazz and blues songs about yearning and about love gone wrong, you need vocal chords that have been scratched raw by whiskey, cigarette smoke and heartbreak. You've got to have experience with yearning and love gone wrong. That's what gives you vocal conviction and makes songs believable. But somehow, it's hard to believe that this fresh-eyed teen has a reason (or a right) to sing the blues, as she says in one of her songs.

I'd like to hear her again in 20 years or so, once she's gotten a few miles and a few relationships behind her. Then, she'll rock. Mark my word: she's going to be making lots of waves in the jazz world over the next few years.

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