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Bass and vocal duets with Ogawa and Levy

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    Posted: 15 Jul 2020 at 7:53pm
NOA LEVY AND SHIMPEI OGAWA RELEASE
YOU, ME & COLE
A UNIQUE COLE PORTER VOICE/BASS COLLABORATION
AVAILABLE JULY 10 ON BELLE RECORDS
 


Music is an international language, and jazz is America's greatest cultural contribution to the conversation. Nothing exemplifies that more than YOU, ME & COLE, the debut CD by vocalist NOA LEVY and bass player SHIMPEI OGAWA. Levy is an Israeli, who is currently living in San Francisco, and Ogawa is from Japan and currently living in New York City.
 
YOU, ME & COLE is a duet album featuring Levy's sultry voice replete with intimate shadings and Ogawa's endlessly inventive bass playing. The arrangements subtly reflect their native cultures and their wide exposure to an entire world of musical genres. Levy and Ogawa met and began performing together in the San Francisco Bay Area, where they were both recent expats on a new scene.
 
Levy was born and raised in Israel, which has a robust jazz culture that has produced a number of bona fide international jazz stars, like Avishai Cohen and Anat Cohen. Levy first became interested in singing when her father gave her a Queen cassette tape, and she became entranced with Freddy Mercury, which started her musical journey as a vocalist.
 
She joined a youth choir and sang all styles of music and started performing locally. When she turned 18, she served a compulsory two-year term in the armed forces, performing with the prestigious IDF Navy Band. The band toured extensively throughout Israel and around the U.S. After completing her military service, she pursued her passion for performance at the London School of Musical Theatre in London, where she received a diploma. Afterwards, she returned to Israel and studied at Rimon School of Music, a top-notch music academy, comparable to Berklee College of Music.
 
Levy arrived in San Francisco, following her boyfriend who would later become her husband. She has been living in San Francisco for nearly five years, performing and studying jazz. Jazz in the Neighborhood has twice recognized her as an Emerging Artist, and she was invited to collaborate on the Jazz Voices of Poetry project. Levy released her debut EP, Take Two, in 2018 and performs regularly around the city with her trio, Noa Levy and The Experts.
 
Ogawa hails from Okazaki, Aichi, Japan, which is famous among Japanese jazz musicians for the large jazz festival held there every November. He started playing electric bass at the age of 13, but soon switched to upright bass after participating in a local jazz big band workshop and falling in love with the rich, harmonic complexity of jazz. He continued his studies while playing in the Okazaki Junior Jazz Orchestra.
 
Ogawa moved to Tokyo in 2012 for its robust jazz scene. He spent four years playing in local venues while studying both jazz and classical bass, as well as arranging and composition. He moved to San Francisco in 2016
 
to attend the California Jazz Conservatory because he had met the Japanese-American drum master Akira Tana, who lives in the Bay Area, on one of his frequent tours to Japan. Ogawa was selected as the bassist for the school's advanced ensemble and went on a European tour to play at several jazz festivals including Montreux, Switzerland; Umbria, Italy; and Edinburgh, Scotland. Ogawa moved to New York City in 2019, after completing his studies, because he wanted the opportunity to play with the city's top musicians.
 
Levy and Ogawa began playing together for a jazz history class at the California Jazz Conservatory. They were on the same musical wavelength and enjoyed the give-and-take that the duo format afforded them, so they started performing in clubs around the Bay Area. Cole Porter was one of their favorites. They were especially fond of Porter's clever lyrics and memorable melodies.
 
The inspiration to record a full album of Porter's music started after they arranged a duo performance of "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" for one of Noa's concerts. Ogawa had recently returned from Argentina, where he had gone to study tango. They imbued the arrangement with a dramatic, tango feel. Levy says, "Shimpei makes miracles on the bass. He stretches the instrument in all different directions using his vast knowledge of different styles and techniques. But it was very important for the both of us that the music should also reflect our own cultures. I think I was able to bring some of my Jewish culture to "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," as well. I hear it as a Jewish tango."
 
The momentum and their chemistry led to the development of another Porter classic. Ogawa had originally arranged "I Get a Kick Out of You" for a big band, but he reconceptualized it as a swinging, avant-garde duet number that opens with a voice/bass soli. With two duet numbers completed, they decided to make the entire project a bass/vocal album.
 
Levy opens "Just One of Those Things" with a swirling vocal melisma straight from Middle Eastern liturgical music. Their take on "What is This Thing Called Love" was inspired by Charlie Mingus. Levy sings some verses that are rarely done. They do "It's All Right with Me" as a straight-ahead swinger. Ogawa has studied classical music, and his bass line in "So in Love" was inspired by Bach, resulting in an elegant conversation between voice and bass. They funk up "Too Darn Hot," while Levy adds some lyrics to "Anything Goes" with more contemporary references. Ogawa gave the arrangement a Brazilian feel and adds additional interest with changing meters. "Love for Sale" is one of Levy's favorite tunes. She suffuses the song with sadness, giving it more emotional gravitas. Ogawa is a huge fan of chamber music, and their arrangement for "In the Still of the Night" was inspired by Esperanza Spalding's Chamber Music Society.
 
Levy and Ogawa are true jazz musicians. They have absorbed a variety of musical styles, which, in their expert hands, they have turned into highly engaging and accessible interpretations that give them the space to play with phrasing and harmony. They have mined Brazilian and Middle Eastern music, as well as the blues and even Bach, for inspiration. On YOU, ME & COLE, Noa Levy and Shimpei Ogawa have created a fresh, individualistic expression of these Cole Porter songs that have been around for decades.
 
 
YOU, ME & COLE will be available July 10, 2020 online everywhere.
 
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