The Key Studio Sessions: Cvgebird

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For Philly’s Selina Carrera, live music isn’t a one-way thing. A concert can be a form of community, and it’s something the charismatic Philadelphia singer-songwriter and rapper brings to the stage under the banner of her project Cvgebird.

A small example: at every concert, Carrera takes a few minutes to freestyle while her band improvs underneath, and she makes the experience show-specific by asking the audience to start her off with a few words to build her bars around. Sometimes these improv ideas make their way into songs in the Cvgebird repertoire, and sometimes they exist purely in the moment.

When the band visited WXPN Studios this week to record a Key Studio Session, there was no audience to go to for suggestions, so Carrera asked the crew: myself and production assistant Makena Duffy. I went with the word “falafel” (my lunch earlier that day) while Duffy offered “peanut butter” (we were in a food mood, I suppose?) and sit-in bassist Rah M. Sungee rounded it out by suggesting “butterfly” (bouncing into the world of nature). Carrera nodded, pondered, and as the mellow funky groove began to blossom around her, she launched into a story about two people in the early stages of a relationship, trying to get to know one another better over a meal. The words of choice were not shoe-horned in, as I’ve often seen happen with this type of freestyle, but flowed naturally into a dreamlike world, a place in a story that had not existed moments before. Impressive.

Cvgebird first caught our attention last fall, during a captivating set opening for Oshun at Underground Arts, but Carrera has been making music since 2013, when she released the Selina Carrera Presents The Wonder Years EP on Soundcloud. She’s been bouncing between Philly and L.A. of late, establishing herself musically on both coasts and building a network of collaborators in each. In December, she released the elegant and uplifting “HIYAA,” a song about dreams and ambition and living for yourself; it opens her Key Studio Sessions performance on a soaring note. Tomorrow, she releases her latest single, “Basos,” a playful song about passion and devotion (the hook, “dame un beso,” is Spanish for “give me a kiss”); a live version of it brings the Key Session to a close.

In between, we hear ruminative cuts “Alone” and “These Days,” as well as that knockout freestyle I mentioned earlier. Expertly executing the set is the Cvgebird live band, which for this performance features Sungee on bass, C.C. Hamilton on drums, Jack “Spooky” Ozment on keys, and guitarists Lloyd Alexander and Ishmael Abdus-Salaam. Watch video, and listen to a Soundcloud archive of Cvgebird’s Key Studio Session below. For more, proceed to West Philadelphia this Saturday afternoon, where Cvgebird will headline the 49th annual Clark Park Music and Arts Festival. The event is free, and more information can be found at the festival website.

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