Since its origins in the turbulent 1920s-'30s, and with the occasional exception of a vocalist-cum-chanteuse like Ute Lemper
, the authoritative renditions by Marlene Dietrich and Lotte Lenya have pretty much held title to this music, which might be called the Great German Songbook. Which makes it all the more impressive that Munich-born Andrea Fultz, who has worked with a variety of bands with material ranging from American Songbook to electronica and bossa nova, makes so impressive an impact with this collection. The songs of Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill and Friedrich Hollander came from cabaret, films and stage pieces, and reflected their enchantment with American jazz. Although mostly sung here in German, the emotional and musical communication is clear.
Typical is the opening track, "Alabama Song" from Brecht-Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, first heard by many Americans via The Doors. It's a cynical, sexy and crypto-romantic piece Fultz seizes unreservedly, chiseling each note with her full-throated soprano. Here and throughout, pianist Adam Shulman, percussionist Mica Patri and accordionist Rob Reich create a raucously effective atmosphere.
Understanding German is not essential to appreciating Hollander's contemplative, "Wenn ich mir was wünschen dürfte." It's an intense, heartfelt duet between singing actress and pianist considering wishes that cannot be. By contrast there's Pirate Jenny's song, one of several gems from The Threepenny Opera. A revenge fantasy of an oppressed servant, Fultz' delivery is clear-eyed and ultimately jubilantly murderous. The only overtly political piece in the set, "Song of A German Mother" by Hanns Eisler and Eric Bentley, is a scathing ode to a son killed in war.
This group creates a world of its own in this collection that is seedy, sensual, insolent, filled with chipped and cheap sentiment, gritty and utterly compelling. It is its own singular jazz idiom, one as rich, distinctive and as enduring in its veracity as say the Dixieland that once emerged from New Orleans.
Personnel: Andrea Fultz: vocals; Micha Patri: percussion; Adam Shulman: piano; Dina Maccabee: violin; Rob Reich: accordion; Eugene Warren: bass.