Gwen Snyder lives on her own planet – the planet Blueberry. And if you have even the tiniest drop of soul in your sauce, you’re really going to like it there. It’s a place where lush folds of velvet vapor rise like street steam after a summer rain; where soft, sexy keyboard swells rub up against hip-swaying, sole-sliding bass lines; where Erykah Badu, Prince, and Donovan make sweet love to the sounds of Stevie wonder’s Innervisions and Roxy Music’s Avalon. A landscape where quiet storms hover and glide over endless fields of deep, funky hooks. Ready to visit this enchanted world? Good news: It’s closer than you think.
Conveniently, Blueberry also happens to be the name of the ever-changing, party-bringing psychedelic-soul collective that New York singer and multi-instrumentalist Snyder formed in 1999 to play her songs.
Snyder has lent her talents as a musician and vocalist to a diverse and impressive list of industry names: Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner, jazz great Don Byron, Eighties pop act Tears for Fears, composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, singer-songwriters Ben Taylor and Jonathan Rice, Brand New Heavies singer N’Dea Davenport, David Bowie bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, New York bands Nervous Cabaret and Johnny Society, and many others. And her songs have been used on the soundtracks of such hit TV shows as “Roswell,” “Providence,” and “Felicity.”
But Snyder’s roots as a performer don’t only extend into music. After graduating from New York University’s experimental theater program in the ’90s, she quickly became a key player in the Downtown scene, providing the voice of Janis Joplin’s ghost in the Off-Broadway production “Distortion Taco,” working with famed composer-choreographer Meredith Monk, and starring in several indie films and music videos. Her theatrical lineage makes Snyder a strikingly visual artist, and her performances with Blueberry are a natural outlet for her singular style. Outside of a Blueberry gig, perhaps the best way to get a glimpse of her glittery flash and panache is via the video for the Organika track “The Little Ones.”
“The days, there really aren’t any acts out there like Blueberry. O, sure, there’s a raft of neo-soul pretenders that reference the class names mentioned elsewhere on this sheet. But few of them have the chops to do their elders’ legacies justice. And even if they do, in most cases they come off as little more than slavish tributes to the greats. With Blueberry, however, the virtuosic Snyder brings something to the party that none of these shallow contemporary R&B claimants has: herself. Snyder’s aesthetic, which combines a sense of childlike, fairytale wonder with the confident wiles of a seasoned seductress, is uniquely and utterly her own. And her music is pure, hook-heavy, pop genius. Don’t let it pass you by.”
-– Peter Aaron, music editor
Chronogram magazine and contributor to AllMusicGuide.com,
AllAboutJazz.com, Jazz Improv, Your Flesh Quarterly, and the Kingston Daily Freeman