” Ms. Serpa is cool all over, from concept to execution(…)” Ben Ratliff, The New York Times
” (…) her subtlety and sureness command serious attention (…)” The New Yorker
Natural from Lisboa, Sara Serpa is a Portuguese jazz vocalist-composer, based in Harlem, New York, since 2008, described by JazzTimes Magazine as “a master of wordless soundscapes (…) and a marvel of continuous reinvention”, and by Nate Chinen from The New York Times as “a jazz singer of airy poise and impeccable instinct”. Often recognized by her wordless singing, Serpa has recorded and performed with jazz luminaries such as Greg Osby in 9 Levels (2008), and Grammy-nominated Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez in Providencia (2010).
Serpa has produced seven albums as a leader, (with the labels Sunnyside Records, Clean Feed, and Inner Circle Music), the most recent being a partnership with Portuguese guitarist André Matos, All The Dreams (Sunnyside Records, 2016), a successful follow-up to their debut Primavera (2014), which was noted by All About Jazz: “Their music is art at the point where minimalism and cangiante merge, resulting in an otherworldly sound that’s utterly enthralling and completely unique.“
Serpa’s collaboration with her teacher/ mentor, Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow legendary pianist Ran Blake resulted in three recorded albums, providing fertile ground for the singer to explore the Great American Songbook along with Film-Noir: Camera Obscura (2010), Aurora (2012), Kitano Noir (2015), the latter described by PopMatters as “wonderfully hypnotic”.
Sara Serpa is also a member of Mycale, an international a-capella quartet commissioned by McArthur Fellow and avant-garde composer John Zorn, whose newest release Gomory (2015) was praised by Ben Rattliff from The New York Times as “astonishingly beautiful, a high point in the series: The singers’ individually rigorous tones and dispositions and arranging impulses surround the music and give it another dimension of originality; it sounds medieval and new at the same time.”
Literature has always been a source of inspiration for Serpa’s music, and her album Mobile (2011), title that refers to themes of travel and movement, reflects her passion for reading. Inspired by authors from Homer to Melville to V.S Naipaul, and featuring André Matos, Kris Davis, Ben Street and Ted Poor, it was noted as “work of art in motion” by the Chicago Jazz Magazine and outlined by JazzMan Magazine (France): “Serpa’s commitment to this special and difficult project works wonders – it would be difficult not surrender to it.”
Serpa’s accomplishments extend beyond the jazz world. Serpa has performed/ interpreted music of contemporary composers such as Andreia Pinto- Correia, Derek Bermel (with the Albany Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Allan Miller), Aya Nishina (Flora (2014), Guillermo Klein and Joseph C. Phillips Jr. (Changing Same (2015).
A New England Conservatory Master of Music (MM) in Jazz Performance, and a graduate from ISPA (Portugal) in Social Work and Rehabilitation, Sara Serpa did her Piano and Classical Singing Studies at Lisbon National Conservatory. She later fell in love with Jazz and Improvisation through the Hot Clube de Portugal’s school, while working on her research thesis about Refugee Women in Portugal. She relocated to the United States in 2005 to attend Berklee College of Music, followed by New England Conservatory.
Serpa was voted as “Musician of the Year” in 2010 by the newspaper O Público, one of the major daily publications in Portugal, and was the cover of the U.S magazine Jazziz in 2012. Serpa has been voted and included by the DownBeat Magazine Critics Poll in the “Rising Star Vocalist” list for three times- 2014, 2015 and 2016.
She has performed her own music in Europe, Australia, North and South America, singing at international festivals such as Festa do Jazz, the Panama Jazz Festival, Festival de Jazz de Montevideo , Wangaratta Jazz Festival, Adelaide Festival, or venues like Bimhuis, Casa da Música, Village Vanguard, Jazz Standard, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Kennedy Center for the Arts, among others.
Currently, Serpa leads City Fragments, an ensemble featuring three voices (Sofia Rei, Aubrey Johnson), cello (Erik Friedlander), guitar (Andre) and drums (Tyshawn Sorey), which allows her to deepen and expand her passion for vocal music. Serpa has been working on a composition/suite inspired by French philosopher/ feminist Luce Irigaray’s writings, to be recorded in 2017.