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Tiffany Pfeiffer and the Discarnate Band, Amor Frio

By Dan Bolles, Seven Days

From established stars Grace Potter and Anaïs Mitchell to rising talents such as Myra Flynn, Maryse Smith and Anna Pardenik, Vermont suffers no shortage of supremely talented, young female vocalists. This collective embarrassment of riches grew even greater when neo-soul songwriter Tiffany Pfeiffer recently relocated to the Green Mountains from Brooklyn. Based on the strength of her debut EP, Amor Frio, recorded with crack backing ensemble the Discarnate Band, Vermonters will welcome her with open arms.

“These Years Later” begins with a melancholy piano progression buoyed by flecks of bright cymbal. That classic, late-night jazz feel then melds with a pulsing drumbeat, introducing the retro-modern aesthetic that defines the EP. Pfeiffer is immediately compelling, unfurling sensuous vocal lines with uncommon grace. Her delivery is tastefully restrained, which is all the more commendable given her obviously elite chops. By holding back, she heightens the listener’s anticipation, while also allowing her smartly crafted lyrics room to resonate.

“Baby I’m Yours” is a sweet, rolling, rock- steady number. Here, Pfeiffer resembles an updated version of longtime Skatalites collaborator Doreen Shaffer. Again, she offers just enough stylized flair to suggest her impressive vocal abilities without ever explicitly revealing them. Given the tune’s simple but effective lyrical flow, it’s a savvy choice.

“Broken Hearted” is the most overtmashup of the disc’s competing classic and modern idioms. Pfeiffer and MC Yah Supreme play up pop music’s time-honored coy damsel/charming rogue dynamic — think Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan, Otis Redding and Carla Thomas or, more recently, the Amy Winehouse/Ghostface Killah remix of Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good.” The results are hit or miss, as Pfeiffer largely overshadows her slick rapping counterpart. But that’s hardly his fault.

“Conquistadora” is a sinewy Latin-jazz-inflected tune. Pfeiffer finally indulges some vocal acrobatics amid a shuffling phalanx of horn, flute and grooving upright bass. The payoff is worth the wait. Few singers can match Pfeiffer’s raw talent, locally or otherwise.

Amor Frio comes to a blissful close on “That Moment in the Stars.” The tender, aching ballad is perfectly suited to Pfeiffer’s unique and timeless voice.

Tiffany Pfeiffer and the Discarnate Band play this Thursday at Tosca’s at Trout River Traders in Montgomery Center, and again Friday at the Westford Farmers Market.

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See also:

New Music Spotlight December 2010: Big Heavy World