Swiss singer/composer/producer Beat Kaestli has four recordings as a leader since 2002. All are intelligently focused. Reasons (B&B Productions, 2002), Happy, Sad, and Satisfied (B&B Productions, 2005), Far from Home: A Tribute of European Song (B&B Productions, 2009) and Invitation (Chesky, 2010). Far From Home and Invitation are the most sharply focused, the former addressing European song and the later, the American Songbook. Kaestli possesses a sublimely sweet voice, one that Chet Baker would have coveted. But that is old news. Collage, Kaestli's fifth recording is released and it is a different animal entirely. The singer recorded these songs in Elisabeth Lohninger' Lofish Studios in New York City, with Lohninger herself providing background vocals. This is an artistic match of note that smooths the surface of this already subtle recording.
Kaestli assembles a truly multicultural event sung mostly in French and supported by a gently-led guitar/accordion quartet. Do not let the Francophonic personality of this disc scare you; many of the melodies contained herein are part of our collective auditory memory. Kaestli's creamy-rich "Frere Jacques" will send all into a nostalgic tailspin of childhood. The song swings with a serious undercurrent that demonstrates the superb musicianship that went into this recording. Charles Trenet's "La Mer" is likewise so familiar that it it can be sung from memory (in French) after only a couple of listens.
Kaestli introduces things with an angular original, intelligently designed and tuneful. the use of accordion as the harmonic instrument gives this music that vague old world quality that much prewar, European popular music had. This quality does not bestow a sepia tone to the music, which is fresh and exciting. Kaestli wrestles "Besame Mucho" to the ground, first in Spanish, then French. So exquisitely sensual is Kaestli's delivery, reharmonized by Ben Stivers, one does not know whether to cry or undress. He finds a tense balance between innocent sweetness and the erotic that makes this reimagining achingly compelling. "I Wish You Love" could have been included on his previous recording as a topical standard. But here, first in English and again in French, Kaestli's relaxed and inventive delivery recasts the song for the cabaret.
No Francophone recording would be complete without and Edit Piaf composition and Kaestli provides us a beautifully lilting reading of "La vie en Rose," where he brings to life Paif's lyrics:
Et dès que je l'aperçois Alors je sens en moi Mon coeur qui bat
And from the things that I sense, Now I can feel within me My heart that beats.
Let's hope for much more music like this from Beat Kaestli.
En Bord de Mer/Lugar Comum; La Haut sur las Montagne; La Mer; Mesame
Mucho/Embrasse-Moi Beaucoup; Cantique Suisse/Swill Psalm; Comme en
Plein Reve; Autour de Minuit (Round Midnight); Frere Jacques; I Wish
You Love/Que resta-t-il de nos amours; The Choice You Make; La vie en
Beat Kaestli: vocals; Jesse Lewis: guitar; Vitor Goncalves: -
accordion; Matt Wigton: bass; Fred Kennedy: drums; Clarice Assad:
vocals (6); Elisabeth Lohninger: vocals.
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