“For me, sharing my stories is about the connection to our authentic selves, to and with others. Here I’ve kind of taken back my story — I’ve hopefully reached the point where I can show what the music is telling me about these songs, and can give them the right respect, treat them as they deserve to be treated.”
After multiple listenings, it’s this writer’s opinion that Sumitra has done precisely that — the personal growth and maturation of this restless, brilliant artist is also the listener’s gain
Sumitra Nanjundan’s September 2019 release, Bittersweet, is a work of rare distinction. Joined by bass master Carlitos del Puerto and the iconic drummer Brian Blade, Sumitra fully reveals her mastery as a multi-dimensional artist — a vocalist, pianist, lyricist, composer, and arranger. Produced by Alex Machacek, the recital features seven of her melodic originals, a song adapted from the corpus of Béla Bartók, and personalized interpretations of the American songbook standard “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Freedom,” by former Young Disciples singer Carleen Anderson.
In a sense, on Bittersweet, Sumitra presents a spiritual autobiography, pulling together her experiences, twists and turns into a collection of stories that, in various ways, reflect the contradictory emotions implied by the title. Not least of these vignettes is the title track itself: “Bittersweet” juxtaposes memories of her mother’s December death, of their mutual December birthday, of her December wedding anniversary. “After my parents’ departures, I’ve been given a new definition of self,” she says. “I’ve learned that grief and joy can and do coexist side by side, in harmony — and it’s good.” She cites Brené Brown’s descriptor, “holding the tension,” adding:
“To me it seems that this quality (which you could also call ‘holding the balance’) is what life — and making music — is all about.”
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“From the opening track, “Bittersweet,” she establishes a forthright musical identity, confiding and poetic. There is an alluring contrast between the emotional maturity of her sharply observed lyrics and the almost girlish quality of her fluid contralto. She has a gift for setting her lyrics to extended melodies that catch the ear without obvious hooks ... By the album’s closer, the spacious ballad incantation “Another Day,” Sumitra has established herself as an artist with a winning sound and vision all her own." Review here.
Sumitra Nanjundan’s new recording, Bittersweet, sends a vibrational memo directly to the music appreciation center in the middle of my brain. It is a collection of ten relatively short song/compositions that stand alone, yet possess the coherence of a finely executed multicourse meal. Most satiating… Review here