“..a fresh and riveting presence on the vocal-jazz landscape..” Nate Chinen, JazzTimes
” ..Serpa possesses a preternatural cool, injecting weightless sophistication and melodic grace into everything she touches…” Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader
” 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
“Literally, she sounds as if she must sing whenever she speaks.” All About Jazz
“ She’s Unique beyond words.” Boston Globe
“…her phrasing is weightless to the extreme..” PopMatters
Natural from Lisboa, Sara Serpa is a singer, composer, improviser, that through her practice and performance, explores the use of the voice as an instrument, working in the field of jazz, improvised and experimental music, since moving to New York in 2008. Described by JazzTimes magazine as “a master of wordless landscapes” and by the New York Times as “a singer of silvery poise and cosmopolitan outlook”, Serpa is often recognized her wordless singing.
Serpa’s innovative approach has been praised since her debut album Praia (2008) was released, as stated by All About Jazz: “(…) she raises profound questions regarding the previous role of the vocalist in jazz. She sings as an instrumentalist, as a member of an ensemble with a bold conception (…) —not the star of some show.”
Literature, film, visual arts, nature and history inspire Serpa in the creative process and development of her music. As a leader, she has produced and released seven albums, (with labels Sunnyside Records, Clean Feed, Tzadik and Inner Circle Music), the latest being a partnership with Portuguese guitarist André Matos, All The Dreams (2016), a successful follow-up to their debut Primavera (2014).
Serpa’s collaboration with her teacher/ mentor, Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow pianist Ran Blake resulted in three recorded albums, providing fertile ground for the singer to explore/ interpret 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 a member of Mycale, an international a-capella quartet commissioned by MacArthur Fellow and avant-garde composer John Zorn, whose newest release Gomory (2015) was praised by The New York Times as “astonishingly beautiful, a high point in the series; it sounds medieval and new at the same time.”
With literature has a source of inspiration, Serpa released the 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, the Portuguese singer completed 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 started her career recording and performing with two of her teachers, both jazz luminaries such as Grammy-nominated pianist Danilo Perez, Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow pianist Ran Blake.
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 a trio with Erik Friedlander (cello) and Ingrid Laubrock (tenor sax), with a debut album coming out in March 2018 (Close Up/ Clean Feed) , and a trio featuring Zeena Parkins (harp) and Mark Turner (tenor sax) in an interdisciplinary performance, combining film with live music entitled “Recognition“.