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Niia's 'Breaking' gives vocal jazz an intriguing modern makeover

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NIIA

Singer-songwriter Niia Bertino–who goes by her first name, pronounced”Nye-a”–is crafting a singular career path for herself. A classically trained pianist with a pop-friendly voice, she got her first big break on Wyclef Jean’s “Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)” but has largely eschewed radio-friendly hits in favor of making subtle, intimate music that rewards careful listening. Her upcoming debut Generation Blue (out tomorrow on Something Local) was recorded with Danish musician Robin Hannibal, the producer behind the cultishly beloved groups Rhye and Quadron, and it deftly uses the template of contemporary minimalist electronic music to help bring vocal jazz into the here and now, a difficult mission that it pulls off with surprising ease.

The intriguingly spare “Breaking” is typical of the pair’s approach, even if it is atypical subject matter. “This song was one of the hardest songs to write on the EP,” Niia writes in an email. “Until I was really ready to admit my mistakes, the song felt unfinished. This is my first real apology song.”

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