Elisabeth Lohninger: The Only Way Out is Up (2007)
Austria is the mother source for composers. One of the latest progeny from the land of golden eighth notes is vocalist/composer Elisabeth Lohninger. Lohninger has been performing from an early age, beginning her career at age six, performing Austrian folk songs with her sisters. It did not take long for her to venture in other directions, leading her to study classical and jazz, achieving a Masters Degree in music, English language and literature. This blend of education is perfectly manifested on The Only Way Out is Up.
Backed by a core trio of long-time collaborating pianist Walter Fischbacher, bassist Chris Terry and drummer Hari Ganglberger, Lohninger assembles eight originals, one standard, and one standard bearing her lyrics. The Only Way Out is Up is very much a New York City disc: it's frenetically paced, like city life in the Big Apple. The subject matter is mostly urban with the pulse of city life as it courses through the subterranean subway. "Winter in New York City very much captures this feeling. Lohninger conversationally propels this tome on a winter's day in Gotham. The singer displays her varied vocal abilities, ranging from abstract modulation to scat. Lohninger also shows off her exceptional alto voice, which is rich like dark chocolate and sharp like fine cognac.
On the supremely conceived and performed "Spring Really Can Hang You Up the Most," Lohninger pulls out the scat stops and really shows her stuff. Mino Cinelu's percussion gives the slightest piquant to the flavor of the song. The title song illustrates Lohninger compositional talent. On this svelte, hip tome, Fischbacher trades the acoustic for the electric piano and Donny McCaslin provides his muscular tenor as the wheels for Lohninger to weave her sunglassed hard bop vehicle. Her lyrics are sardonic, knocking hard knocks.
"Swimming up Stream is Lohninger's song without words. She displays every acre of her alto in this vocalese vehicle which features Donny McCaslin's soprano horn. Hari Ganglberger provides the Tony Williams to Fischbacher's Herbie Hancock in the rhythm section.
In a recording with several treats, this disc ends with a dandy, Steve Swallow's "Falling Grace, with words by Lohninger, and the pop-oriented original "Free to Fall, again featuring Fischbacher's electric piano. The Only Way Out is Up is the best independent vocal jazz recording I have heard this year, and it may very well outlast the big-label offerings.
Track Listing: Mirage; The Weather In New York City; The Only Way Out Is Up; Spring Can Really Hand You Up The Most; As The Tides Turn; Delirious Joy; Swimming Upstream; Be A Lion; Falling Grace; Free To Fall.
Personnel: Elisabeth Lohninger: vocals; Walter Fischbacher: piano, keyboards; Chris Tarry: bass; Hari Ganglberger: drums; Mino Cinelu: percussion (1, 3, 4, 7, 8); Donny McCaslin: saxophones (3, 7, 8).