When: Thu., Dec. 6, 9 p.m. 2012
Local pianist and singer Azita wrote the songs on her terrific new album, Year (Drag City), for a 2006 musical of the same name by Brian Torrey Scott, who'd also enlisted her to create music for his 2005 play Detail From the Mountain Side. In the theatrical version of Year, Azita and guitarist Emmett Kelly occupied a corner of the stage, alternately functioning as a kind of Greek chorus and as the voices of certain characters. Her lyrics (Scott also wrote a few) confront their themes—in this case loss, change, and time—much less directly than is typical in musicals, which tend to spell things out clearly. For the recording Azita is joined by an excellent band—guitarist Sam Wagster, bassist Toby Summerfield, and drummer Adam Vida—that makes the exquisite melodic density of her music easier to parse than it was on her 2011 solo album, Disturbing the Air. The songs are supercatchy and elegantly constructed, filled with harmonic complexities and unexpected twists that put her in the company of classic pop songwriters such as Laura Nyro and Burt Bacharach, who also set rock melodies amid jazz-grade harmonies and chord changes. Stylistically she's never covered such a broad range: "Something That Happened" is reggae (with an extended dub interlude by Tortoise's Dan Bitney), "Out and Around" is a delicate piano ballad, and "Ice" is rollicking pop. It's never possible to get too comfortable in any of the genres she visits, though—her reedy voice and willfully disruptive phrasing keep you on edge in the best possible way. For tonight's show Azita is joined by Wagster, Vida, and bassist Nick Macri (Summerfield moved to Virginia earlier this year). —Peter Margasak Axis: Sova and Trin Tran open.