Sophie Tassignon: Moon Talk (2006)
Zoshia is but one of Belgian composer/lyricist/vocalist Sophie Tassignon's projects and Moon Talk is her quartet's debut recording. All of the music is composed by Tassignon, as are half of the lyrics. The other half are written by Jean-Pierre Tassignon, with the exception of "Anna," by Anna Akhmatova.
The group consists of vocalist Tassignon supported by pianist Christian Claessens, electric bassist Steven Van Loy and drummer Nico Manssens who perform pieces that defy easy labeling. They create a stream-of-consciousness atmosphere that brings to mind overly earnest coffee house protest poetry put to music.
However, leaving it at that would short-change the album. Putting aside the words, Tassignon's music is very attractive, with unpredictable turns of melodic phrase and harmony continually surprising the ear. It constantly oscillates between the free-form and the structured and is performed with concentrated intent.
The instrumentals between the vocal sections, as in "Blue Angel," present a trio that can play what has to be called jazz. The arrangements, which center on the poetic song, never allow the trio to really let go, yet when the opportunities do arise, they are fully utilized.
Tassignon's voice is on the thin side, with minimal support under each note, and her delivery uses little vibrato. Since the melodies are not structured regularly, each note becomes separated from its neighbors, and their pitch becomes very important. What is interesting is that Tassignon's delivery is accurate, but her vocal instrument's thinness adds a kind dramatic tension which stems from the feeling that any given note might go flat, even when it does not.
A kind of scatting is also part of Tassignon's technique, and here she is excellent. Choosing different syllables than normally expected and reminiscent of Norma Winstone, Tassignon's voice becomes a fourth instrument, with the previous tension disappearing entirely.
In sum, Moon Talk contains much satisfying instrumental music of complex structure, which displays the talents of Tassignon the composer, and, of course, the trio. There is more than enough pure music with sufficient depth, as in "Dégringolade," to raise hope there's more to come.
Track Listing: Sun and Moon in Paradise; Moon Talk; Stand Up and Walk; Men and Women Can; Blue Angel; Hunger in the Desert; Anna; For a World of Love and Care; Don't; Dégringolade; Peace in Mind.
Personnel: Sophie Tassignon: vocals; Christian Claessens: piano; Steven Van Loy: electric bass; Nico Manssens: drums; Bernard Guillemin: clarinet (11); Saartje De Muynck: violin (11); Herlinde Verheyden: cello (11); Stefan Bracaval: bass flute (11).