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Album Review

Ester Wiesnerova: Blue Journal

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Ester Wiesnerova: Blue Journal
By any standard, this is a remarkable production. Ester Wiesnerova's debut recording, long in the making, reminds one of Joni Mitchell or Holly Near, although her music is not really music of social protest, but meditations on identity. Since some of it is in Slovak, a language not accessible to a nonspeaker, a listener takes it at face value, purely as music. Wiesernerova's compositions and arrangements are nothing if not striking, especially when framed by percussion, harp, bass and saxophone, performed by an international cast of players.

It is necessary to listen carefully to tease out the meaning of her songs. An example might be "Burrito," which is an extended and unconventional discussion of transcultural communication, assimilation, adaptation and appropriation, not to mention the divisive politics of ethnicity. It is a bit difficult to describe exactly what transpires in the song, with a simulated newscast, allusion to a border wall, and to the Tijuana Bay, which, usually is identified with San Diego. On the other hand, if there is a city in Mexico with more diverse ethnic enclaves than Tijuana, it would be difficult to find, so the subject is well chosen.

If "Burrito" seems arcane, "I'm Not Spinning If It Rains" may take listeners to some unknown destination. If there is a form of abstract expressionism in vocal jazz, surely one will find it here. All of which is to say this is not the Great American Songbook. One takes Wiesnerova at her word: her life—perhaps any life—is a series of self-discoveries wrapped in a search for authenticity. That may sound a bit heavy, but the sheer beauty of her voice exerts a pull. She is certainly well worth hearing. The apparent mix of Central European folk and popular melodies also makes for some arresting moments.

The other unusual aspect of this recording is the package in which it comes. The title Blue Journal literally describes the package, which is a hand-crafted, 64 page "ecological" journal complete with 46 photos, poetry (in the original and in translation), calligraphy, and enough space to annotate the thoughts that may come in listening. It is nothing if not beautifully produced, and invites one to immerse oneself in Wiesnerova's intriguing and attractive world.

An album commended to adventuresome listeners in the mood for something different.

Track Listing

Sinking Deep; Circles; Burrito; Thirsty; Feet are Screaming; Nightingales and Maple Trees; Who Are You Now; Citilivi; Dripping; I'm Not Spinning if it Rains; Epilogue.

Personnel

Ester Wiesnerova: voice / vocals; Sam Knight: saxophone; Charles Overton: harp; Michal Šelep: bass; Kan Yanabe: percussion.

Additional Instrumentation

Maria Rehakova: flute.

Album information

Title: Blue Journal | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Self Produced

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