How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Christina Gustafsson is sister of the better known Swedish jazz vocalist Rigmor Gustafsson. This is her second album, a follow-up to Moments Free (Prophone, 2007). Gustafsson feels herself to be part of the singer/songwriter tradition but employs a team of three text writersCecilia Åse, Helena Davidsson and Stefan Danielssonwho, she says, "have worked close together and talked about me (sic) thoughts of life right now and what the contents of the lyrics should be. That's the reason why the lyrics became very personal and intimate." The obvious question is: "Wouldn't they be still more personal and intimate if you wrote them yourself?"
There is the nasty suspicion thathaving worked the trick with RigmorSvengalian forces are now trying to make the same formula succeed all over again with her sister.
Not that Christina Gustafsson doesn't have some vocal and, perhaps, musical talent. It's just that she hasn't developed it a great deal. Maybe this is the fault of her homeland. Swedes often refer to it derisorily as ankdammen, "the duckpond." And the impression here is of a small coterie of people doing their thing, then telling each other they've achieved a great result.
Had a little more thought and care been taken, and had an outside, more cynical eye been allowed to focus on the proceedings, who knows; perhaps Gustafsson could have been prodded into coming up with something truly original. As it is, there is really nothing here that you haven't heard before, many times over.
The feeling of déja vu sets in right from the start with James Taylor's "Your Smiling Face," and continues through three of Gustafsson's "personal and intimate" collaborations with Åse and Davidsson ("Take A Fall," "My Move," "Winter Has Gone" and "In the Light of New York") and one with Danielsson ("Standing Where The Changes Begin"). The impression is of bits and pieces taken from various popular musical forms and stitched together. To this are added English lyrics that are almost but not totally there ("Look at hershe's moving in New York"... "The road is about to wind"). Guitarists Max Schultz and Erik Söderlind are both gifted but are rarely given a chance to cut loose.
There are the obligatory standards: Harold Arlen's "I've Got The World On A String" and a rather edgy 5/4 version of "Stormy Weather," and Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," which Gustafsson does as a sometimes out-of-sync duet with bassist Martin Höper. Then there is a surprisingly good version of "Happy Talk" from South Pacific (1949), also performed as a duet with Höper, who this time wisely restricts himself to a purely instrumental role. Everything climaxes with a rather shy sing-alongwith sister Rigmor and vocalists Sofia Pettersson and Lina Nybergof "Smiling Hour," taken from Sarah Vaughan's album, Copacabana (Pablo, 1979).
Track Listing: Your Smiling Face; Take A Fall; My Move; I've Got The World On A String; Standing Where The Changes Begin; Winter Has Gone; Smile; Happy Talk; Stormy Weather; In The Light Of New York; Smiling Hour.
Personnel: Christina Gustafsson: vocals; Max Schultz, Erik Söderlind: guitars; Martin Höper, bass; Calle Rasmusson, drums.