Jazz needs more vocalists like Theo Bleckmann. Bleckmann skirts the well-worn path of the standards repertoire, preferring instead to stick with original or group compositions and pieces off the beaten track. He avoids any ostentatious displays of virtuosity. And he liberates a distinctly legato, thick-hued delivery (of great range) which lends itself well to the pastoral settings found on Origami.
In general, this record bears an introspective, melancholy feel. Bleckmann's open, bell-like accompaniment on the piano only enhances the effect. Origami
occupies a distinct niche somewhere between choral chamber music, folk song, ambient minimalism, and downtempo jazz improvisation.
Bleckmann's electronic manipulations of the music on Origami mostly play a welcome supporting role, although on "I Remember You" he skips (yes, he skips, not your CD player) a slowly increasing number of times until it becomes a guessing game what word in the tune he's going to accent with 4 or 8 or 20 rapid-fire digital revisitations. Toward the end of the tune, there's nothing but incessant digital snips left. (Don't worry, they change. And it's interesting and good. )
The supporting cast on Origami consists of sympathetic players with plenty of experience in and out of the traditional jazz idiom. These four musicians do not regularly step out into solo space on Origami and when they do, they tend to actively reinforce the general dark, consonant flavor of these pieces. Bleckmann's vocal performance includes verbal and non-verbal expositions, regularly using overdubs and understated electronic effects to introduce texture and counterpoint. His main strength as a performer lies in his exquisite sense for simple melodies, and he appears content to explore that territory at length.
For listeners interested in a fresh, personal angle to vocal jazz, Origami has amazing properties. However, be warned that mellow introspection is the flavor of the day: don't expect any flash-and-bang (except for the notable exception on "I Remember You"). Origami is most definitely a peaceful record for quiet listening.
Personnel: Theo Bleckmann: voice, piano; Ben Monder: guitar; Matt Moran: vibraphone; Skuli Sverrison: electric bass; John Hollenbeck: drums, percussion, melodica.