In English, the Italian singer and composer Vanessa Tagliabue Yorke's Diverso Lontano Incomprehensibile translates as "different, distant and incomprehensible." It certainly is different. But it is neither distant nor incomprehensible. It is close-up personal and, though strange, it makes perfect sense, just like a Thelonious Monk piano solo makes perfect sense. It is also beautiful, beguiling and superbly well crafted. For most of its one hour duration the album has little to do with jazz and more to do with contemporary classical chamber music. It is what used to be called art music. You may find that, against expectations, you are entranced by it and, when the album has finished, look forward to hearing it again. It does not disappoint a second time around.
Yorke is an art and sculptor graduate of Milan's New Academy of Fine Arts and a music graduate of Mantua's Lucio Campiani Conservatory. She has a crystalline, often intensely dramatic voice. She cites her primary musical inspirations as Olivier Messiaen, Claude Debussy, Alexander Scriabin, Bix Beiderbecke and Gerard Grisey, and mentions Javanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Egyptian and free jazz influences, too. She has wide experience performing early jazz and French chanson, and has appeared at jazz festivals in the US and Europe.
Yorke is, in plain language, a one-off. She began recording in 2012 and Diverso Lontano Incomprehensibile is her fifth album. She wrote most of the material and arranged all of it. She is accompanied by a mixed lineup of jazz and classical musicians. Her arrangements are as striking as her voice, leaving plenty of space for each instrument to take turns in the spotlight. Francesco Bearzatti's lyrical clarinet plays a prominent role, as does Paulo Birro's equally pleasing piano. All the musicians shine but the quietly twangtastic electric guitarist Enrico Terragnoli and pointillist percussionist Michele Rabbia's are worthy of special mention.
Only three songs come from composers other than Yorke (and Birro, who co-wrote two tunes with her). "Alf Leila Wa Leila" was written by the Egyptian lyricist Morsi Gamil Aziz and melodist Baligh Hamdi in 1969. "T.G.T.T. (Too Good To Title)" comes from Duke Ellington's Second Sacred Concert (Prestige, 1968). Irving Kahal and Sammy Fain's "I'll Be Seeing You" was a hit for Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra in the 1940s. It deserves to be one for Yorke, too.
Indonesia; Mlyana; Ldon; Con Khi; Alf Leila Wa Leila; Skrjabin; Grazie Degli Incubi; Orchidea Song; Monkey Improvisation; Zebra; T.G.T.T.; I’ll Be Seeing You.
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In addition to writing and editing for All About Jazz, Chris is editor of the British style/culture/history magazine Jocks&Nerds and consultant Afrobeat historian for Google Arts & Culture and Partisan/Knitting Factory Records.