Artist: Miss Sophie Lee
Album: Traverse This Universe
Label: Kingmoon Productions
Release Date: 07/22/2016
She is a restaurateur, she is a small-time actress, and above all she is a mother, but Miss Sophie Lee also strongly identifies as a jazz songstress. Born in Chicago to a Korean mother and a Southern father, Lee’s diverse background eventually found her in New Orleans 15 years ago where she settled in for a life of creativity. She opened her first restaurant, Three Muses, there with chef Daniel Esses, and has since opened another location and third restaurant. In between her time in the culinary world and keeping up with her two young daughters, somehow Lee has managed to release her fourth full-length record, Traverse This Universe, last month.
An old-fashioned jazz album with reggae and swing influences, Traverse This Universe is as bluesy and woozy as it is catchy and quirky. Opening the album is “You And Me (The Universe),” a jazzy romantic ballad that summons rainy Parisian sidewalks narrated by Lee’s expertly grainy voice featuring a healthy dose of saxophone solos. Next is her cover of “That’s When Your Heartache Begins,” made famous in the 50s by Elvis. With some sparkling rhythms, Lee mostly lets her breathy, prolonged vocals steal the show. A few tracks later, “A Safe Place” takes a bittersweet and personal turn. The original composition was penned in response to a murder that had happened in NOLA, which Lee dedicates to the victim and his family. Energizing listeners after the emotional piece is a cover of the popular 30s track “Undecided,” a hopping polka tune with rapid rhythms.
Later, Lee’s original track “The Way That Love Can Be” highlights the surprising versatility in her voice. Slightly more modernized than the rest of the record and based on electro-pop beats, “The Way That Love Can Be” is a dreamy, spacey song that proves Lee can traverse the universe as well as other genres. Of course, a jazz record wouldn’t be complete without a sultry cover of “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).”
When the record ends 11 tracks later with “Lovely In That Dress,” it’s a peppy, positive sing-along. Lee’s voice soars sweetly amid a blaring horn and string section on what sounds like the sunniest day of the summer. Throughout Traverse This Universe, Miss Sophie Lee tackles precise old-school singing that can only be accomplished with natural talent, not to mention passion. The album feels like traveling through a dream with Lee as our narrator, an elegant voice with honest stories and thoughtful arrangements.