Last month, New York trombonist Ryan Keberle brought an unusual combo of two horns and rhythm section plus a vocalist to Missoula for DalyJazz, the long-running jazz concert series held at a private residence in the University District.
For the second night's show, the trumpeter had to leave town, potentially robbing Keberle's arrangements of a key voices. Luckily, the singer, Camila Meza, is a trained jazz guitarist who could fill the gap.
Meza is returning this Friday to promote her own album, "Traces," released at the end of last month on respected independent label Sunnyside Records.
The album splits the difference between her interests as a singer and jazz guitarist, with a selection of originals and covers that foregrounds songs over soloing.
As a singer, Meza has a high, clear tone with an elastic ease reaching the higher registers, although she uses it patiently on tunes like "Traces" and "Para Volar."
As a guitarist, Meza maintains a warm tone on guitar and prefers liquid, legato phrasing.
Most distinctively, as at her DalyJazz performance, is the way she doubles her lead lines on guitar and vocals in a subdued and natural fashion. That technique might bring to mind hyperactive scatting, but Meza prefers a breathy subtlety in her vocals and six-string work.
Meza's taste in covers spans a wide berth but she folds them into her sound seamlessly. Stephen Sondheim's "Green Finch and Linnet Bird" from "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" is a classic, pleading Broadway "caged bird" conceit. Brazilian songwriter Djavan's "Amazon Farewell" rides waves of tricky rhythms through to an extended instrumental workout.
She performs "Luchin," by Victor Jara, a fellow Chilean, solo on acoustic guitar.
The album closes with composer and producer Jon Brion's "Little Person," which he wrote for Charlie Kaufman's meta-existential crisis film, "Synedoche, New York."
Accompanied by only keys, guitar and bass, her interpretation is more like a calm statement of discovery with little of the desperation that colored that film.
On record, Meza is sometimes backed by a band comprising Shai Maestro on keyboards, Matt Penman on bass, Kendrick Scott on drums, Bashiri Johnson on percussion and Jody Redhage on cello.
Meza will be coming back through Missoula for a show at Imagine Nation Brewing this Friday.
She'll be using the same Montana rhythm section that Keberle did – bassist Craig Hall of Bozeman and drummer Caleb Van Gelder of Missoula.
Where Meza's guitar playing is light-fingered and restrained, Jessica Dobson's work is effects-laden, gestural and often plain mean-sounding in the best ways.
Dobson, who's played with the Shins, Beck and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, uses her instrument as extreme coloration on her carefully controlled album, "Secrets," with her band Deep Sea Diver.
A song like "Wide Awake," with repetitive boogie-rock bass line, dance rhythms and touches of adult-contemporary maturity in the harmony vocals, is a picture of style, except for effects-driven guitar shadings on the intro and interludes.
Or "It Takes A Moment," a stomping number with a lacerating guitar tone that works in marked contrast to her soaring vocal intonation of the phrase, "I'm free." She sounds like she means it, whether singing or playing.
Deep Sea Diver and Radiation City play at Stage 112, 112 Pattee St., on Monday, March 14. Doors open at 9 p.m. and the show starts at 10. Tickets are $7-$10, 18 and older.