For Sasha Dobson, the release of her new album, Aquarius, comes as a huge relief. “It’s a beautiful mountain to have crossed,” she laughs. “It’s been quite a hike!” During the recording process, Dobson stretched her creative wings, broke free from her jazz lineage—her father is the late, famed Bay Area pianist Smith Dobson, and her mother Gail Dobson, was a prominent jazz singer—and found her true passion. “I’m coming from being a jazz singer, and when I got hired to play guitar for Norah [Jones], that was ridiculous because I’d never thought that’s what I’d end up doing,” Dobson says.
“It was such an honor, being her guitar player, but I was like, ‘Are you sure?’” The time she spent playing with Jones and working on her own sound helped propel her in the grittier, more downbeat rock ’n’ roll direction present throughout Aquarius. From the mid-tempo “Couldn’t Let You Go,” to the funky and sinister “Full Moon,” to the ambient, borderline Americana track “The Day We Met,” Aquarius is filled with a variety of subdued sonic textures and themes that aren’t always happy. But that’s just fine with Dobson. “I’m not that sad, personally, but the record is kind of sad,” she laughs. “It’s real. I’m interested in writers who are brutally real, like Elliott Smith. I like the dark [stuff].” Dobson is thrilled the album is out, but she hasn’t stopped working. In fact, she is already thinking about her next record. “[Aquarius has] been done for a year,” says Dobson. “You guys are just getting to know it now, but I’ve had this record pressed and ready to go for quite some time, so in the meantime I have to keep going. I’m excited for the second record!”
INFO: 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $20/adv, $23/door. 427-2227. Photo: Larthi Krishnaswami