35th Vilnius Jazz Festival. 13-16 October, 2022

Sofia Rei & JC Maillard


Sofía Rei - voc, loops & charango

JC Maillard - saz bass, voc

The project continues the European tour, which was launched last year by New York City based club The Stone, established in 2005 and curated by the legendary avant-gardist John Zorn. During this tour formidable groups interpret works from the innovator, saxophonist, composer and producer’s grandioso Masada cycle. The cycle is a study of Hebrew cultural identity.

Zorn worked on Masada cycle for 25 years. It consists of three books – a total of 613 compositions based on the Torah’s commandments. Many jazz celebrities including Dave Douglas, Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot, Pat Metheny and John Medeski have been performing these compositions for a quarter of a century. For Zorn contributes substantially to the promulgation of the music by his like-minded colleagues. In 1995, he established the Tzadik record label, which has given opportunity to numerous innovators to document their music.

Last year Vilnius Jazz hosted Brian Marsella Trio performing works from The Book of Angels, the second book of Zorn’s Masada cycle. Now, the compositions from The Book Beriah, the third and final book, will be presented by the composer’s likeminded colleagues – Sofía Rei, a New York based Argentinean vocalist, songwriter and producer, and her long-time collaborator JC Maillard, a New York based multi-instrumentalist and composer of French heritage.

These compositions are featured in the duo’s recently released album Keter. It is one of the 11 albums documenting 92 compositions from The Book of Beriah, the third book of Masada cycle. Accompanied by Maillard’s eight-stringed acoustic SazBass Sofía recorded eight of them.

This unique instrument, designed upon Maillard’s request by French Luthier Herve Prudent, combines elements of the Turkish saz, the Greek bouzouki and the electric guitar. The pairing finds echoes of the ancient in the urgency of the modern.

According to critics, ‘supernaturally’ emphasising the mystical grain of The Book of Beriah compositions, the new hybrid is a perfect partner of the voice.

Keter turned to be a true euphoria in the jazz circles. It was lauded to be the most unique Masada CDs in the entire series. Magical and unforgettable.

With Spanish lyrics by Rei and arrangements by both musicians, the songs explore a variety of topics from love and solitude to a childhood under dictatorship in Argentina.

According to reviewers, in Keter the vocalist morphs into a narrator. Her voice is a force of nature; an instrument that never fails to take her wherever her imagination desires to go. But it is precisely this imagination that makes her such an inspiring presence in the world of adventurous music.

Restless curiosity and vocal flexibility of Sofia Rei, the vocalist, songwriter, producer and pedagogue, allows her to fuse variety of styles and traditions. “All About Jazz” described her as one of the most versatile and in-demand singers on the New York City music scene. “One of the best Argentine singers ever. She consolidates herself as one of the most expressive voices of all times”, wrote “El Itruso” (Argentina). Superlatives came also from “DownBeat Magazine” and “The New York Times”.

A self-described “frog from another pond”, Rei’s natural inclination to leap, an instinct that has taken her from early classical training and Argentinean folk music through punk nightlife of Buenos Aires into some of the most prestigious jazz venues in the US and on to a wealth of festival stages around the world. At the same time she continues to delve into the folk music of a number of South American countries including Peru, Colombia, Venezuela and Argentina, and incorporates electronics into her performances, expanding the potential of the human voice into radical new territories.

Chilean reviewers named her an ambassador of Latin America’s experimental voice in the contemporary international circuit. Rei has carried diverse Latin American traditions from her native Buenos Aires to the multi-cultural mecca of New York City, where she has fused those sounds with jazz, classical, pop and electronic music influences. She seeks inspiration from various corners of the globe. Folklore and futurism, graceful elegance and raw passion, virtuosic precision and spontaneous exploration – all merge together in her music.

Rei released three personal albums; received various awards. Together with Geoffrey Keezer she has earned a Grammy nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album of 2009.

Sofía has graced several Zorn vocal projects from the a cappella quartet Mycale to the dynamic Song Project, collaborated with Maria Schneider, Bobby McFerrin, The Klezmatics, Myra Melford, Pedrito Martinez, Lionel Loueke, Guillermo Klein, Marc Ribot, Susana Baca and many others.

Rei started her professional career as a member of the Colon Theatre Children Choir. She furthered her training at the Buenos Aires’ National Conservatory of Music, intending to become an opera singer. While at the Conservatory, she found herself dividing her time between performing early music and premiering new works by contemporary composers – initiating a trend for straddling past and present that would mark her whole career.

Her interest in jazz led her to pursue the improvised music at Boston’s New England Conservatory, where she formed relationships with her future closest collaborators, including bassist Jorge Roeder, pianist Leo Genovese, saxophonist Daniel Blake and percussionist Jorge Pérez-Albela.

In 2005, Rei moved to New York and embarked on enriching experiences with Bobby McFerrin and the Maria Schneider Orchestra.

The vocalist toured Europe, North and South America singing at renowned festivals and concert venues including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., World Music Festival in Chicago, SFJAZZ festival (USA) and the Montreal International Jazz Festival (Canada), Teatro Colón (Argentina), the Barbican Centre in London, Konzerthaus in Vienna, North Sea Jazz festival (the Netherlands), etc.

Rei is also dedicated to guiding others. After teaching at Berklee College of Music in Boston, she is now a professor at the New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, where she is helping students navigate the confluence of contemporary music, technology and business.

She has also helped bring innovative voices to new audiences as producer and co-founder of two events – Berklee’s Latin America Vive Music Festival and the NYC South American Music Festival, and as founder of “El Colectivo Sur”.

Rei’s long-time stage partner composer, guitarist and pianist Jean-Christophe (JC) Maillard is a native of Guadeloupe Island in the Caribbean.

For the past 20 years he has been touring, producing, arranging, acting as musical director and recording with all the great names in world music and world jazz. He has collaborated with Grammy winning artists such as Lisa Fischer, Angelique Kidjo, Richard Bona, Toure Kunda, etc.

His project “Grand Baton”, an innovative mix of rock and electronic music with Caribbean percussions, has released two albums, which received rave reviews from all over the world.

JC is also known for mastering and being the first player of the SazBass. Keter album is the first proof of the possibilities of the unique instrument, thus the audience of Vilnius Jazz has a rare chance to assess its potential in live concert.  

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