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Solveig Slettahjell: Domestic Songs

Eyal Hareuveni By

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The fifth solo release by Norwegian vocalist Solveig Slettahjell finds her in a domestic environment. This intimate album was indeed recorded at Slettahjell's home, and most of the songs feature Slettahjell's vocals with the beautiful sounding new Steinway piano that she recently purchased after winning the Norwegian Kongsberg Jazzfestival's Vital-Pris, with some spare ensemble arrangements. As such the focus is on Slettahjell's arresting warm vocal, that can stretch to a surprising range, and her wise and restrained slow motion phrasing, that charges every line with subtle, poetic nuance.

The fourteen songs are accompanied by members of Slettahjell's Slow Motion Quintet, mainly by trumpeter Sjur Milijeteig—one of a new generation of Norwegian trumpet players including Arve Henriksen and Mathias Eick—and multi-instrumentalist Peder Kjellsby, who contributes lyrics, arrangements and produced the recording. Their focus on the bare essentials only solidifies the quiet and moody environment.

But these songs do not portray an idyllic domesticity. They evoke memories, emotions, dreams and intimate ruminations, mainly about the many faces of love, but without surrendering to nostalgia. Slettahjell offers consolation in dreams on "4:30 AM, surprises in her straight-forward and innocent declaration of love in "I Do, features a more playful side of intimate relationships together with the entire ensemble on "One of These Days, and expands on her affinity to her home country, its people and scenery on "This is My People. She concludes with a quiet, sonically updated interpretation to John Lennon's "Because," with its promise that "love is all," and with a slow cover of Tom Waits' "Time, that stresses her as a sensitive and wise interpreter, but returns to the same topic and advises that "it is time that you love.

"Match Perfect," with its child-like melody, speaks about yearning for an early close and embracing surrounding. Her understated reading of American poet Dorothy Parker's "Inscription for the Ceiling of a Bedroom" retains the sharp and careful observation of daily life of the poem, but her warm vocal lends a more life-affirming tone to Parker's words. She follows with two beautiful arrangements of traditional lullabies—a modest and simple "Bed is Too Small" and, with the full ensemble on "Baby's Bed's a Silver Moon. "Leave Me Here" offers a humble resignation about an inevitable break-up with a close one. The only vocal arrangement of the traditional lullaby "Oh, Sweetly," with her brother Olav Slettahjell, is beautiful in its fragility. Slettahjell concludes this arresting gem of a disc with "Never Forget the Good Ones, and returns to the binding theme of this recording—the close ones, inside and outside your domestic surroundings, that keep charging your vision about life.

. A unique masterpiece.

Track Listing: 4:30 AM; I Do; One of Theses Days; This is My People; Because; Time; Snowfall; Match Perfect; Inscription for the Ceiling of a Bedroom; Bed is Too Small; Baby's Bed's a Silver Moon; Leave Me Here; Oh, Sweetly; Never Forget the Good Ones.

Personnel: Solveig Slettahjell: vocal, piano; Peder Kjellsby: glockenspiel, harmonium, percussion, guitar, piano, additional vocals, whistling; Sjur Miljeteig: trumpet, mellophone, euphonium, additional vocals; Per Oddvar Johansen: drums, percussion; Jo Berger Myhre: bass; Olav Slettahjell: vocals (13).

Title: Domestic Songs | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: ACT Music


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