To be from New Orleans is to a have a unique view of life that stands in contrast to almost every other place. Sasha Masakowski grew up in a musicians home in a musicians city. Her father, Steve Masakowski, is a celebrated jazz guitarist; her mother Ulrike is a concert pianist and visual artist. Sasha describes her childhood as a ‘very colorful family dynamic’, which was mirrored on the street by the cultural vibrance of the city and the specific way people celebrate life (and death) with music and art. Yet it was not until she moved away to pursue her career that Sasha understood the full value and unique beauty of the city.
It is this understanding that forms the foundation of Sasha’s approach to her latest project – Art Market. After touring the world with many and releasing music with other projects – Tra$h Magnolia, Hildegard – Sasha brings her current state of musical evolution to the forefront. Her move to Brooklyn had a profound influence on her sound, and the album is a look back to the foundation from her new perspective. The album title is a reference to the beauty and diversity of the street market, where each presentation is a carefully crafted expression of identity presented to the passersby. The album is a reflection of that; a variety of songs presented in a careful collection.
“Each song is its own little universe, really. Each part is there with intention” (Sasha Masakowski)
As we listen, we come to understand that Sasha literally reinvents everything to present it from her unique, stylistic lens.
Art Market kicks off with the Sugar Boy Crawford staple Jockamo, perhaps the best known popular song from the city. And while Sasha treats the song with the respect it deserves by using the original title and crediting Crawford, she completely reinvents the piece by programming electronic drums and a powerful synth bassline, and adding playful lyrics that could have come from the girl next door in another time.. All the swing is still there, by the way, and thus we see clearly that Sasha is honestly presenting the music the way only she can hear it.
Other standout tracks are her original compositions Juicy Booty Song and Scary Monster Song, both layered with rich vocal textures and dynamic band performances, capturing Sasha’s role as a skillful producer and talented songwriter. Working closely with engineer Jay Wesley, Sasha transformed the songs into sophisticated pop works inspired by artists she admires such as Meshell Ndegeocello and Deerhoof, taking risks in post-production and finding new vantage points until her vision was secured.
The tracks Sister and Struttin’ with some Barbecue are both New Orleans spirited, and seamlessly weave between second-line and bounce beats as Sasha playfully shakes up the sound of traditional songs in her decidedly non-conformist approach.
The Bed is a haunting cover of an early St. Vincent song, performed as a duo by Sasha and synthesist / pianist Jason Lindner, and Sasha’s completely vocal version of Bill Evans’ classic Interplay demonstrates her ability as an improviser and arranger.
Sasha pays tribute to her father, Steve Masakowski, by recording two outstanding compositions of his (Entropy and Ascending Reverence), and also covers legendary New Orleans drummer James Black’s Storm in the Gulf; the little-heard original recording of this song in the 70s featured her father on guitar, and stories of Black’s wild personality inspired Sasha’s edgy rendition of the track.
Art Market is a thrilling culmination of the past several years of experimentation and exploration in Sasha’s life. The album reads like a musical diary, chapters gathered from impressions of life spent touring the globe, and ultimately the decision to move from her hometown of New Orleans to NYC in pursuit of artistic growth. From lighthearted traditional swing to elegant modern jazz, intricate synth pop to edgy electronic art-rock, the constant thread throughout this album is Sasha’s voice- both literally and figuratively- audibly and artistically. Airy, delicate and sweet but layered with a depth of musical knowledge that proves her ears are in line with her vision, her vision in line with her adventurous spirit.
“Jazz is not a noun, it’s a verb. A way of life.” (Steve Masakowski)
'Her versatile voice guides a fluid transformation of New Orleans jazz into genre-spanning, disparate compositions textured with electronic pulses, bounce-inspired percussion and a vibrant palette of feedback loops, thick guitar slabs and acrobatic piano.' - The Gambit
Sasha Masakowski: Vocals, Synthesizers, Drum Programming, All Arrangements, Production.
David Torkanowsky: Piano
Cliff Hines: Guitar
Jason Lindner: Synthesizer
Steve Masakowski: Guitar
Peter Varnado: Drums
Martin Masakowski: Bass
Jeronne Amari Ansari: Sax
Colin Myers: Trombone
Simon Lott: Drums
Mixed by Jay Wesley
Mastered by Nate Wood
Release Date: June 8, 2018