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Jazz Fest review: Love Upstream with Erin Costelo 

Costelo's voice and compositional prowess received a fulsome workout.

Who approached who really doesn't matter. The fact that it happened and a large crowd in the Jazz Tent yesterday afternoon got to listen to and thoroughly enjoy Erin Costelo with Love Upstream was, well, beautiful. This was a playback for me of a nervy idea: namely for a group of Costelo's finely wrought original songs to be rearranged by members of Love Upstream.

Gyrated into fresh shapes, textures and colours, Costelo, bravely would then perform these new settings. With the band. In concert. I luckily got to hear that. Bowled me over then. Bowled me over again hearing those numbers reprised. Costelo, unlike many of her contemporary young singer-songwriter peers, is no musical naif. Well-schooled in higher-learning music programs, she knows her stuff. And therefore is cognizant of the wide historical range of styles musical inspiration could be dressed in to show it off to its best advantage. Because of that and her sharp intelligence and stellar talent, her compositions, to me, evoke the cutting lyric smarts, memorable melody-making and stand-out musicianship of one of America's finest songwriters-- the brilliant ironist Randy Newman. With one exception. Vocalizing. Newman's croaky, strained-through-rusty-steel-wool vocals cannot ever compete with Costelo's rich, flexible, dynamic alto voicings.

Costelo's voice and compositional prowess received a fulsome workout. From "The Day Before War" which kicked out the tropes with a jaunty, ol'-timey show tune bounce --talk about irony, given the subject matter--to the achingly beautiful ballad "Go Home," to a rivet-popping, spine-shaking, foot-stomping song setting by arranger/bassist (and Costelo sidesman), Lukas Pearse. A blend of the twist, bossa and trance rock. "Stereolab meets Chubby Checker," he explained. A matchless program of whing, slang, song for a splendid afternoon. My sole complaint? That I couldn't hear it again. And again. And...

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