Seval: i know you (2011)
Jazz fans and speech pathologists may disagree on the technicalities, but analogies between vocals and instrumentation date back to Billie Holiday. Holiday referred to her own singing as feeling like, ..."I'm playing the horn." If validation of the theory were in doubt, Ethiopian-born, Vietnamese-raised vocalist, Sofia Jernberg lays it to rest. The very inventive vocalist is front and center in cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm's quintet, Seval. On this release, i know you, the Chicago-based Lonberg-Holm surrounds himself with some notable players from Sweden's jazz scene.
The title track is close to minimalist, opening with a single note from bassist, Patrie Thorman and then the cello and vocal becoming the prominent elements. Only near the conclusion of the piece does trumpeter Emil Strandberg join in. Here, Jernberg comes across as a hybrid of Sidsel Endresen and Josefine Lindstrand, both singers who have worked with Django Bates. On "Maybe It's Too Late" Lonberg-Holm' s cello has a bit of a mournful, countrified feel; not too surprising given that his diverse resume runs from Peter Brotzmann to Wilco. Midway through the piece, however, Lonberg-Holm and Jernberg adopt a far edgier tone before segueing into the more pop oriented "I Won't Go." Strandberg is initially out in front on this piece before guitarist, David Stackenas, adds some acoustic strumming while Thorman subtly drives the up-tempo beat.
On "I Went," the real lateral thinking begins as Jernberg demonstrates her chameleon- like abilities by channeling Kate Bush. Strandberg takes the lead and the piece becomes more of a free jazz improvisation as Lonberg-Holm breaks away from the more tidy and structured techniques. "This House" is the most acutely improvisational number in the collection. Lonberg-Holm employs some scraping, atonal playing that is amazingly matched by Jernberg's wordless vocal. At times, it is almost impossible to audibly separate the two musicians. When they break, Stackenas injects an equally improvised solo. Despite the dissonance, the piece does not lose its melodic center.
The balance of i know you varies in configuration and tempo but all the compositions in this collection are strikingly original. Despite the frequent and inventive improvisations, Longberg-Holm has chosen to focus on more traditional musical structures than those he typically gravitates toward. As talented as the group is, it is the singing that is most impressive. Jernberg's vocal agility is sweeping, analogous, conceivably, to the range of sounds that Wadada Leo Smith can generate with the trumpet. She is a phenomenon that merits attention.
Track Listing: I Know You; Maybe It's Too Late; I Won't Go; I Went; Note Song; This House; Just Don't Listen; Everybody Shows.
Personnel: Fred Lonberg-Holm, cello; Sofia Jernberg, vocals; Patrie Thorman, bass; Emil Strandberg, trumpet; David Stackenas, acoustic guitar.
Record Label: 482 Music