Waiting in the Wings

Three Cape singers make their mark on the local music scene.

Cape Cod has long been an incubator for pop music. The most recent evidence would be the Grammy recognition of former Nauset Regional High School student Meghan Trainor (who won for Best New Artist) and Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School grads Rich and Ryan Meyer and their cousin Johnny Stevens, the trio known as Highly Suspect (nominated for Best Rock Song for “Lydia” and Best Rock Album for “Mister Asylum”).

While it’s rare that a Cape performer gets to walk the red carpet during the music world’s biggest night, there are plenty of local singers who deserve your attention. Here’s a look at three who have carved out a niche on the local scene. Catch them now while it’s easy. You never know … one of them might be Grammy-bound in a year or two.

By Bill O’Neill • Photography by Dan Cutrona

Jordan Renzi

2016-Cape Musicians-©Cutrona-877928, born in Brookline, lives in Orleans

For fans of Norah Jones, Eva Cassidy and Laura Marling

Signature songs:

“I like the traditional songbook: ‘I Know You Rider,’ ‘Wreck of the Ol’ 97,’ ‘Fare Thee Well.’”

“Becoming a musician was a long and winding path,” says Renzi. “I went to school for political science. I graduated from UMass Amherst not knowing what I wanted to do with myself. I came to the Cape for a cooking job. I brought a guitar my dad had given me and started to play. It was a strange and organic process.”

After debuting at open mikes at O’Shea’s Olde Inne in Dennis in 2011, she picked up gigs hosting open mikes and as a headliner. She performs traditional blues and folk songs, along with some originals, including “September” and “Featherbed Lane” (“that one has some traction”). She describes a recent composition, “Fly All Night,” as “sort of bluesy-soul. I’m taking guitar lesson for the first time, so it’s opened up my wheelhouse a little bit.”

In 2015, Renzi was part of the cast of “The Beat Goes On: A Celebration of Music of the ’60s,” a musical revue at the Cotuit Center for the Arts. She sang lead on “And When I Die,” “California Dreamin’” and “Walk Away, Renee.”

A memorable gig: In January 2014, Renzi performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at Hynes Auditorium during a party for Mayor Marty Walsh’s inauguration.

The takeaway: “I’d like people feeling a little warmer and a little raw at the end of a show. I get emotional about these songs. I hope I can transpose what I’m feeling to the audience. I want to get them back to their own feelings that they lose touch with in day-to-day life.”

Catch Jordan Renzi every other Friday night at Harvest Gallery Wine Bar in Dennis. “Harvest has a warm, good vibe,” she says. “Harvest is cool because I can play a lot of my original music there and it’s well-received.”

Rayssa Ribeiro 

2016-Cape Musicians-©Cutrona-958227, born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, lives in Yarmouth

For fans of bossa nova standards

Signature songs:

“The Girl From Ipanema” and “Corcovado” (aka “Quiet Nights”) by Antonio Carlos Jobim

“Playing professionally was just coincidence and luck,” says Ribeiro, but she’s being modest. She’s the dynamic lead singer for Cla da Bossa Nova, a band that also includes Tad Price on guitar, Michael Dunford on percussion, George Machon on flute, cornet and congas, and Paul Lesniak on saxophone. Ribeiro sings mostly in Portuguese and some songs in English.

“My mom was a singer. She played guitar and sang for us every day,” says Ribeiro, who grew up listening to classic and popular Brazilian music, along with the songs of James Taylor, the Bee Gees and the Beatles.

Ribeiro joined a chorus when she was 7 and started singing professionally when she was 21, as part of a Cape pop band called Stimulus Package. Ribeiro, whose family moved from Brazil to Cape Cod when she was 10, works as an office manager for an insurance agency and is studying for a biology and biochemistry degree at Bridgewater State University.

She continues to expand her musical boundaries. Last year, Ribeiro sang in a series of Tony Bennett tribute shows. “I’m trying to learn how to play the piano,” she says. “I just started and I can’t play anything.”

A memorable gig: The first Brazilian Cultural Festival in Cotuit last August. “We had three other bands perform and I was smiling the whole time because I felt like I was back in Brazil. There was so much energy. It was really upbeat.”

The takeway: “I want the audience to feel a little bit of nostalgia, even if you don’t know the music. I want people to feel welcome and that they’re part of the culture—and that they need more. It’s always nice when people get up and dance.”

Catch Rayssa Ribeiro on the first Sunday of the month at Harvest Gallery Wine Bar in Dennis and Sept. 17 at the Brazilian Cultural Festival at the Cotuit Center for the Arts.

Allen McGarry 

2016-Cape Musicians-©Cutrona-937356, born in Pittsfield, Mass., lives in Hyannis

For fans of James Taylor, Jason Mraz and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Signature songs:
“Into the Mystic,” by Van Morrison, and “Autumn Leaves,” by Johnny Mercer – “but sometimes after you play a song for a while, you need to let it go and come back to it,” he says.

In the spring of 2010, McGarry scored a weekly gig at the Island Merchant. He played there almost every Friday until last fall when the Island Merchant closed. At first he played solo shows, but within a few months he was joined by his brother-in-law Jay Sheehan on drums and longtime friend Scott Lariviere on bass. Other musicians started showing up: trumpeter Peter Sheehy, vibraphonist Lars Johnson, harmonica player Allen Oliver and Jack Hart on keyboards, among others.

“It allowed me to tackle songs that I might leave alone otherwise,” says McGarry. “When it’s right and everyone tries to add a part and not dominate, some cool things happen. You get these little sparkles and things take off. Seeing other musicians surprise themselves and develop is a blast.

“We’re all over the map. We’re not just rock, but we rock out on occasion. We’re not just folk, but we often start the night that way. We touch on jazz, we touch on blues, and we do some cool stuff with it.”

Talent is relative: Allen’s sister Kate McGarry is a Grammy-nominated jazz singer and his brother Neil McGarry is a veteran stage actor.

The takeaway: “I love it when people feel relaxed, happy and a little energized after a performance. I want them to feel a sense of a community during the evening, as if they were part of a shared, almost magical experience. I enjoy when people comment on a particular song that touched them. I want them to already be looking forward to the next show as they drive home that night.”

Catch Allen McGarry at the Grand Cru Wine Bar in Hyannis.

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