Blowing Some Steam A Song of Hope brings the heat, taking Eric Wyatt to the next level

Article Contributed by Mixed Media Pr… | Published on Monday, February 20, 2023

Eric Wyatt’s 2021 record A Song for Hope on the Whaling City Sound label is an adventurous, colorful, unpredictable, and wide-ranging session, a tour de force of immense creativity and incredible vision. It’s also something of a departure from his last effort, The Golden Rule: For Sonny, also on WCS, which featured the saxophonist in a more straight-ahead jazz setting.
A Song for Hope is also, as it turns out, a star turn for one of Wyatt’s guest performers, none other than Samara Joy, the young jazz vocalist that, quite unexpectedly, happened to win not one but two Grammy Awards last week, one for Best New Artist, and another for Best Jazz Vocal for Linger Awhile. Samara Joy now records for Verve.
Wyatt invited Samara Joy to sing two songs on A Song for Hope, and both are marvelous, in a way, a foreshadowing of the singer’s incredible talent. The first track, “Say Her Name,” is a luminous tribute to Breonna Taylor. “I was looking for her to convey the pain of that event,” says Wyatt, and she did. “When I listen back to it, I remember the hope we all felt in making these songs, and Samara Joy was an excellent part of that."
Samara Joy is also featured on Wyatt’s soulful take on Sting’s “Fragile.” The singer delivers an ethereal, magical performance, accompanied by Wyatt on soprano sax. Listening to these tracks, it’s no wonder that Samara Joy got the attention she did, both from Wyatt, who invited her to sing with him, and more recently, by the Academy, who awarded her such a distinguished prize.  
That said, no one was more surprised by the win than the vocalist herself. “I can’t even believe—I’ve been watching y’all on TV for so long!” she said, in an attempt at an acceptance speech. “All of you inspire me because of who you are. You express exactly who you are authentically. So, to be here by just being myself, I’m just so thankful.”
As it turns out, Wyatt’s recording was a big step in Samara Joy’s career journey so far. In fact, she parlayed several important steps into a recording contract with Verve.
Wyatt sensed he wanted an impressive singer to guest on his recording and he knew that Samara Joy had won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition back in 2019 at the age of 21. She had been referred to the session by one of his musicians, bass player Mike Boone, a relative of Samara Joy.  
Wyatt has always had an eye for talent. A Song of Hope features drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, bassist Eric Wheeler, and pianist Donald Vegaalong with an all-star horn section and a few additional guests.
“Samara became a blessing in disguise,” says Wyatt. He had originally thought he’d produce an instrumental version of “Fragile.” “When I heard her sing, I knew she could convey the feeling of both of those songs. And she did.