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Simona Smirnova: Bird Language

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Simona Smirnova: Bird Language
Simona Smirnova is a Lithuanian-born and New York-based vocalist, composer, and classically trained kanklės (a Lithuanian chordophone folk instrument belonging to the Baltic zither family) virtuoso. After obtaining her BA in jazz vocal performance from the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater, she moved to the USA to study contemporary writing and production at Berklee College of Music.

There is an aura of mystique to Smirnova's Bird Language, a stunning blend of Baltic folklore, jazz, pop, and rock, infused with nature- themed sounds. The album was brought to life through the ethereal sound of Lithuanian kanklės, Smirnova's virtuosic, sultry signature vocals, and mimicked bird shrieks, interpolated with jazz piano-driven solos, and sinuous, enticing arrangements.

Bird Language conveys Smirnova's numerous life experiences and influences, fundamental to her voyage of self-revelation. As the title indicates, Bird Language draws from the artist's love and profound connection to the natural world, which plays a pivotal role throughout the entire album. Bird Language is nature themed and offers an aural and emotional exploration of humanity's relationship to nature and with one another, delivered with hypnotic vocals, celestial sound of kanklės, and exquisite, Eastern European-hued piano sections.

It took the artist three years to craft Bird Language, ultimately teaming up with co-producer Maksim Perepelica and engineer Mike Marciano for the recording sessions. Although Smirnova is the principal composer, vocalist, and songwriter, Bird Language is rather the result of a joint effort which includes saxophonist Berta Moreno, pianist Caili O'Doherty, drummer Maxime Cholley, cellist Julia Henderson, violinists Adrianne Munden-Dixon and Caroline Drexler, violist Carrie Frey, background vocalists Takuma Matsui and Harini "Rini" Raghavan, and Perpelica on bass. Mixing engineer Dave Darlington—best known for his work with jazz legends Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter— completed the album's post-production process.

Bird Language opens with the breezy, soaring vocalizations of the title track, flourishing into an experimental jazz piece built on exotica- styled kanklės and syncopated rhythms. "Volcano Dreams" delves into the various ways humans are connected. The string section brilliantly enhances Smirnova's vocals on "Out of the Ashes," which explores the urgency of returning to self. Next up, the rhythmic, dynamic "Dandelion Time" celebrates the arrival of springtime and the rebirth of life. Inspired by the artist's childhood in Lithuania, "Solstice"— a hymn to the summer solstice and the traditional festivals— includes harmonies from the Lithuanian multipart midsummer solstice folk song "Kupolio Rožė." The warm tones of the saxophone and the fluttering vocalizations of "Intuition" capture the affinity between instrumental music and human intuition. Perhaps the most avant-garde composition on the album, "Secrets" offers some of the finest vocal moments, soaring to the highest heights. The emotionally charged "Rūta Žalioji" closes the contemplative journey.

Overall, Bird Language is pure musical magic, the result of Simona Smirnova's eclectic background which combines her formative years' influences, Baltic folklore, avant-garde jazz, chamber music, and theatrical pop-influenced vocals into an exceptional, personal sound.

Track Listing

Bird Language; Volcano Dreams; Out of the Ashes; Dandelion Time; Solstice; Intuition; Secrets; Rūta Žalioji.

Personnel

Simona Smirnova: voice / vocals; Berta Moreno: saxophone, tenor; Caili O'Doherty: piano; Maxime Cholley: drums; Julia Henderson: cello; Maksim Perepelica: bass.

Additional Instrumentation

Adrianne Munden-Dixon: violin; Caroline Drexler: violin; Carrie Frey: viola; Takuma Matsui: background vocals; Harini "Rini" Raghavan: background vocals.

Album information

Title: Bird Language | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Simona Smirnova Music

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