Over the course of just four songs on her debut recording, Lower Hudson Valley native Natalie Forteza introduces herself as a commanding vocalist and songwriter of considerable impact. Aided and abetted by Grammy Award-winning producer Michael League of Snarky Puppy, who impeccably contextualizes her voice in a brilliant bath of crystalline acoustic and electronic textures, Forteza shines here with her dynamic range of rhythms and emotions. Obvious touchstones are Sade and Norah Jones, but I hear glimpses of Stevie Wonder, Astrud Gilberto, and Anita Baker as well.
Songs range from the gauzy ballad “Man on the Moon” to the funky, riff-fueled urban storm throwback “Feels So Good.” “Kiss” kicks off with a heavy bass vamp and ominous keyboards, atop which Forteza sings hauntingly, recalling some of Sting’s jazzier solo efforts of the 1990s, climaxing with circular Afropop guitar lines. Album closer “Too Late, Too Soon” is dreamy and heartbreaking. The instrumental accompaniment by keyboardist Akie Bermiss, bassist Anthony Candullo, and drummer Erik Perez, with producer League and Bob Lanzetti sharing guitar duties, is both rich and minimalist—not an easy feat to pull off. But it works perfectly here and serves Forteza’s sonic palette and her unique stylistic blend of soul, jazz, Latin, Afrobeat, and pop instincts on these four love songs that leave a listener hungry for 02, or whatever else she has planned as a follow-up.