Jazz has always been a meritocracy, in the sense that hooks matter more than looks. But that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate a concentrated dose of oomph when it’s right there in front of us. Peggy Lee worked it. So did Nina Simone. And the New York singer-songwriter Somi (born in Illinois to Ugandan and Rwandan parents) has the same kind of high-voltage charisma. She also has an absolutely exquisite instrument—graceful, gorgeous and under her complete control. In the fifties, she’d have knocked ‘em dead in supper clubs; today, she’s slaughtering digitally, in ravishing videos like her simmering R&B ballad, “Ginger Me Slowly.” But we get a chance to glimpse that hypothetical earlier-era Somi this month, when she heats up the Promontory stage. Expect a large slice of modern African-influenced jazz, as her 2014 album, “The Lagos Music Salon”—inspired by an eighteen-month sabbatical in Nigeria—was a well-deserved chart-topper for Sony/OKeh. The singer is backed by a fairly substantial ensemble, including Nir Felder on guitar, Toru Dodo on piano, Otis Brown III on drums, Keith Witty on bass, Juliette Jones on violin and Clerida Eltime on cello. I hope the club has a fireworks permit. (Robert Rodi)
November 8 at The Promontory, 5311 South Lake Park, (312)801-2100, $17/$22/$30/$40.
Robert Rodi is an author, spoken-word performer and musician who has served as Newcity’s Music Editor since 2014. He’s written more than a dozen books, including the travel memoir “Seven Seasons In Siena.” His jazz quintet recently completed a two-year residency at Uncommon Ground, and he regularly hosts a jazz singers’ jam at Lizard’s Liquid Lounge. His literary and music criticism has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Salon, The Huffington Post and many other national and regional publications.