friend at an open stage at the Ark, or when she played an hour-long concert on the front porch of her house on Fountain Street as part of the Water Hill Music Fest in May. That concert was also her farewell to living in Ann Arbor. Wearing the cap and gown from her graduation the day before, she announced--to audible groans from the hundreds of people sitting on her front lawn and crowded on the sidewalk and street--that she'd soon be moving to Detroit to work. But first she'd record Aims, a new album she will debut with two shows at the Ark on September 26 and 27.
That's Teng, and her music--at once complex and straightforward, surprising yet inevitable, much art, no artifice. Her songs, often with hauntingly evocative melodies, reflect her years of classical training on piano, along with strong folk, pop, and jazz influences. One of her best, "Harbor," flows seamlessly, almost imperceptibly, from 5/4 to 6/4 time signatures (a rhythmic complexity rarely found in modern non-classical music) and features lyrics--"Sail your sea / meet your storm / all I want is to be your harbor"--that, as in many of her songs, combine clarity and subtlety with a deep humanity. Her lovely voice, at once agile and direct, warm yet sturdy, is the perfect vehicle for her own songs but also allows her to deliver compelling versions of songs like Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" or Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine."