The occasion for all this is the release of the lady’s time-stopping version of “Hallelujah”. Yep, the Lenny Cohen standard that’s been around the block with just about everyone on the block, most recently given the anthemic treatment by Stephen Page at Jack Layton’s State funeral.
So why would a fresh young thing want to step out with this old dude?
“ It’s a song I’ve admired for a long time, everything about it. Oh yeah, lots of people were warning me off it, saying it’s overdone etc. So I listened to a lot of versions but I was still left feeling like I should do my own treatment.”
. The built-in role of an interpretive vocalist is to bring something different to the piece. Given its many treatments, Sophie knew she had to have something unique in mind before stepping in front of the mic and answers without hesitation,
“I did it from the viewpoint of a 21 year old. It’s basically a mix of some bleak imagery along with an instance on the beauty that is there too. This is not always easy to keep in mind, especially for my generation, given the way the world is. That's another reason I wanted to do it, It’s just such a beautiful songs and I wanted to put a beautiful thing out there”.
This is not all young girl sass. The lady has a pair of well received CDs to her credit, The Gypsy In My Soul and 2010’s ‘Young And Foolish’ and can be heard on Bill King’s current opus Five Aces. Earlier this year, Berkal-Sarbit journeyed to Israel to represent Canada in a song contest and is an in-demand performer on the national jazz circuit.
She’s blessed with a big voice and skills at nuance and coloration that make her stand out in the current crop of jazz femmes. Still, it hasn’t been easy for the Winnipeg native, now based in Toronto, who notes she’s had her share of doubters and nay sayers, often along the lines of "Winnipeg white girls can’t jazz." That, or "dat girl too young to jazz."
"At various times I tried singing other types of music but I always came back to jazz simply because nothing else satisfied my musical sense more than jazz. It was what I grew up with courtesy of my dad’s enormous record collection so there was that strong early connection.
“Another reason I wanted to record ‘Hallelujah’ was because it related to my struggles and dark times within the industry. There are times when it can be difficult to see through to the beauty but it’s there. I guess that’s what I focused on in the recording.
“There’s always going to be somebody who doesn’t like the work; I can deal with that. What’s really cool is that I get amazing support from my peer group; they come out to all the shows.”
‘Hallelujah’ was cut at Number 9 studio with Toronto jazz icon Bill King. tickling a C.Bechstein grand piano and later, working the producer’s chair. The result not so much informs the song as transforms it and wouldn’t it be nice to see Sophie and Lenny doing it duet style?
While there, Berkal-Sarbit and King recoded another pair of tunes but their fate is yet to be determined. Currently, Berkal-Sarbit is working and recording under the guidance of King, who’s currently seeking a winter residency for the pair in Toronto. We’ll let you know when that’s in place as it’s sure to be an ‘event’.
On the low down, they’re playing a number of private parties through the holiday season, so if you have any T.Dot one percenter friends, get networking.
Meanwhile, check the song’s simple yet boldly effective video here